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Sunday, July 31, 2022

Bound and Beaten, but Not Bowed

Here's a bound captive, perfect for roleplaying scenarios where you have to rescue someone. 

Saturday, July 30, 2022

The Yellow Suitcase

This is an objective marker for Fallout: Wasteland Warfare. Full of valuable loot!

Friday, July 29, 2022

Tornado vs Rollercoaster

Middle left is my favourite, because it actually includes a tornado. 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Three Stooges vs Bruce Lee, According to Craiyon

Middle left and middle right come closest to my anarchic vision, but AI still has a long, long way to go...

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

More Thoughts on My Replay

Several days ago I posted about a daydream I've had of "replaying" my life with all the knowledge and experience I've learned growing up. My first post on the subject was mostly concerned with my overriding purpose: to attempt to forestall climate change. This time around, I'm considering the personal matters. 

First of all, I'm very happy with my life and I have few regrets. I have a wonderful network of family, friends, and colleagues, and I'm happy with my career path. 

The tragedy of the replay concept is that while one might try to recreate the best parts of one's life and omit the regrets, in practice this will be challenging. 

Academically, I think I'd be fine. I should have no trouble at all navigating any grade school or university courses focused on the arts, and while math and science might present some challenges, I should be able to pick up anything I've forgotten. On the whole, I imagine my greater experience and maturity should allow me to do better in school than I did the first time around.

But what about my personal relationships? For one thing, I don't remember the precise circumstances under which I met my dearest friends. With some thought I could recreate many of them, particularly the friendships formed during grade school and university. But even then, how can I create an honest relationship with anyone I knew in my previous life? I'll have decades of experience and memories that would put them at immense disadvantage in the friendship. Much as I'd be desperate to reach out to old friends across the course of my life, my conscience would tell me that they're all off limits. 

Unless I allow myself to become monstrous, my replay would be a lonely one. Even with my parents and my little brother, it would be incredibly difficult not to fundamentally alter the way we interact. I would, in effect, be older than my parents, not in body, but in mind. 

Relationships with women would be even more fraught. Forget hooking up in my teens (not that I did the first time around). And forget connecting with any women I was with in real life, even my wife--absolutely the most agonizing and tragic aspect of the replay. Meeting Sylvia was the result of years of interconnected friendships and chance; even if I could replay all those events perfectly, the odds of running into Sylvia the same way would be very slim. I could easily seek her out; I know where she worked at the time we originally met in 2002. But what would I say? I'd either have to tell her the truth, that we were married in another life, or I'd have to arrange some kind of "accidental" meet cute and hope for the best, lying to her by omission all the while. 


Then there's the fact that my efforts to convince powerful people that I come from the future with a warning about climate change would completely derail my life if I had any measure of success. I'd probably spend the rest of my life as a protected asset of one government or another. In the best case, they'd let me live my life as normally as possible while I gave them as much information as I could about my experience of climate change impacts; in the worst case, they'd consider me a source of intelligence of future events and try to alter the timeline in nefarious ways. 

The forces of the universe might decree a replay necessary, but what a hard, lonely road for the replayer. 

Monday, July 25, 2022

Dawn of the Planet of the Robots


This afternoon, my friend Jeff texted this foreboding story to some of his friends, including my brother and me. 

Jeff: "If the kid stopped picking his nose and touching the chess pieces, this would not have happened." 

Earl: "'Righteous Robot Puts Brat in His Place' would have been a good headline'" 

Sean: "I hope the robot was saying 'Checkmate' over and over as he crushed the finger" 

Earl: "LOL"



I lost it, as the saying goes, at that point. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Doctor Komodo

Is he friend or foe? Doctor Komodo holds many secrets. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

How Would You Replay Your Life?

Replay, Ken Grimwood's 1986 novel, keeps crossing my mind even a couple of decades after I first read it in the early 2000s. The premise is simple but utterly fascinating in its possibilities and limitations: Journalist Jeff Winston dies of a heart attack at age 42 in 1988, but awakens with all his memories back in his 18-year-old body while starting university in 1963. He lives his life with the tremendous advantage of his experiences and knowledge of the next 25 years to come, but no matter what, he dies at age 42 and starts the cycle all over again, with each "replay" growing slightly shorter. 

Winston occupies his replays in various ways. He finds a different love, he gets rich, he goes public with his knowledge of the future and winds up in the custody of the US government, all the while trying to understand why he's in this predicament and what it all means. 

A Replay with a Difference
I think anyone who reads this book has wondered what they would do in Jeff's situation. I've played out the scenario several different ways, but lately my hypothetical goal has changed, as have my parameters for my replay cycle. 

Imagine if whatever force of nature or diving being was behind the replays wasn't getting what it desired out of the cycles. Perhaps it was missing something fundamental. So he/she/it decides, or evolves, a different replay methodology. 

After my first death, I get a choice. Instinctively, I know that I'm going to be reborn in my own body at a younger age, but I have a fraction of time to choose the exact date. 

I choose April 5, 1976, the day after my brother Sean is born. I choose this death for two reasons: First, because my knowledge of the future and my inability to remember precisely what I was doing when I was seven years old mean that I might do or say something before my brother's birth that might affect his conception, delaying it or advancing it by the few crucial hours or days that would mean I'd likely wind up with an entirely different younger sibling. Second, because in a sudden explosion of near-death hubris, I decide I want to use my replay to save the world from climate change - and having the knowledge and experience of a, say, 60- to 80-year old man housed in the body of a seven year old would be startling enough to attract the attention of adults with enough influence to potentially do something about my warnings of future catastrophe. 

In this scenario, the later I die the first time, the better, because I can describe the worst effects of climate change to the people of the 1970s. But even if I died now (um, please no), I think I still have enough knowledge to convince the powers-that-be that the time to act is their "now." 

Strategy: Minimize Harm to My Circles, Maximize Chances to Halt Climate Change
My first concern would be to avoid traumatizing my parents, my new little brother, my friends and teachers at school, and my extended family, at least to the extent possible. I'm not a good enough actor to play myself at seven years old, but I might be able hide the sudden disappearance of the child that I was by growing even more introverted and thoughtful than I was. 

I'd do my best to act like the kid I remembered being in Leaf Rapids: I'd toboggan in the winter, play with action figures, read voraciously, play cops and robbers, watch Star Trek on CBC, one of two English television channels we had up there. But I'd also be spending (even more) time at the library. And I'd be writing letters. 

The First Outreach
First, I'd try Dr. Carl Sagan. Going strictly my memory, I believe that in 1976 he'd probably be working on either the Viking (or was it Mariner?) Mars lander and the Voyager 1 and 2 probes. My first letter might go something like this: 

"Dear Dr. Sagan, 

"My name is Earl J. Woods. I'm a great admirer of your work and your writing. As a scientist, you know that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I have an extraordinary story to tell you, and I'm hoping we can talk about it. But first, I have to provide you with some extraordinary evidence, evidence that might take some months or years to come to light. 

"Sometime in 1980, you will write and star in a television series called Cosmos, based on your book of the same name. The show will air on PBS, and in it you'll tie human history and civilization to astronomy, astrophysics, and the great forces of nature that shape our evolution and possibly our destiny. The show will feature music by Vangelis; the first episode will be named "Heaven and Hell," which is also the name of one of the pieces of music by Vangelis composed for the show. The show will be hailed as a major work of education, and you'll become famous for your intonation of "billions and billions." (I don't remember if you actually said/will say this in the show, but it becomes an enduring meme.) 

"Voyager 1 and 2 will not only meet but greatly exceed their mission parameters. Or was it the Pioneer probes you worked/will work on? I don't remember the specifics, but rest assured Pioneer was also a great success.

"In the election of 1980, Ronald Reagan will defeat Jimmy Carter. The Iran Hostage Crisis will end shortly before or after Reagan's inauguration. There will be an assassination attempt on Reagan in 1980 or 1981; the would-be assassin will be John Hinkley, who had an unhealthy obsession with Jodie Foster, the young actress from Martin Scorsese's film Taxi Driver.

"Star Wars by George Lucas will be the highest-grossing film of all time in the summer of 1977, though Gone with the Wind will remain the true champion when adjusted for inflation.

"Director Alfred Hitchcock will die in 1980.

"A few years after writing Cosmos, you'll write Comet with your partner Ann Druyan.

"In 1983, the Soviets will shoot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 over, I believe, the Kamchatka peninsula. This action will precipitate a massive diplomatic crisis and is seen as one of the most dangerous events of the Cold War." 

"Conservative Joe Clark will become Prime Minister of Canada for a few months in 1979-1980, leading a minority government. His government will lose a vote of confidence and Pierre Trudeau will return from 'a walk in the snow' and lead the Liberals back to power in 1980.

"Dr. Sagan, by now you will think that I'm some kind of madman, or perhaps a stalker who's somehow discovered things you thought private, like your future plans. I'm hoping that my writing this letter will not cause the events I remember to unfold differently. My only hope of your belief is that at least a few of the events I've predicted come true.

"I'm writing to you because I want to share some very important future events with you. I believe you're one of a small percentage of people in the world who understand the existential threats our civilization faces. Currently I believe you're most concerned about nuclear weapons. Take some solace in knowing that in my experience, they have never been used as weapons of war since 1945. 

"The threat humanity faces is global warming caused by burning of fossil fuels. By 2022, scientists expect that the world could warm up by another 2.5 degrees Celsius or even higher by the year 2050. In my future, the impacts of climate change are already being felt in the form of more intense and more frequent natural disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, drought, and so on. The world's glaciers are rapidly melting, and government and industry have failed to take the actions necessary to prevent the worst from happening.

"I am not a scientist. I'm just a reasonably well-read layman. If I can prove my knowledge of future events to you and other influential people, there's a chance that my warnings about climate change could cause human beings to act more decisively and far earlier than they have in my time, which by now you'll have surmised is the early 21st century. 

"If and when you meet me, you'll probably be shocked by my appearance. But that's a problem for another time. For now, I can only hope that you'll be curious enough to reach out and perhaps conduct some scientific tests to determine if I'm telling the truth or if I'm just another crafty faker.

"I'll continue to try and remember events of the late 1970s before they happen in an effort to convince you faster. I'll write more letters as I gather my thoughts; this experience is still very new to me, and very difficult to navigate. 

"I've enclosed my phone number and mailing address just in case you threw away the envelope. How I wish I had e-mail or a cell phone to text you, but those things won't be invented for decades. Would you believe there's more computing power in my phone than there is in your most sophisticated equipment of today - probably by a factor of thousands? I'll tell you about it sometime. 

"I hope to hear from you. Thank you for showing how science is a candle in the dark. You were and are an inspiration. 


Earl J. Woods" 

Backup Plans
If Sagan failed to respond, I'd probably start writing similar letters to science fiction writers and the campaigns of national US and Canadian politicians. George Lucas and Gene Roddenberry might be good bets; I know enough about the production history of their creative efforts to boggle them. They don't have the benefit of 50 years of behind-the-scenes books and documentaries. 

Securing My Own Future
Somehow, I'd convince our family doctor to check my parents regularly for specific health issues I know they'll develop later in life. I'll be nicer to my brother and more forgiving and less clueless with people my age. I'd be tempted to direct my parents to invest a little money in sure stock hits, but boy, would I be wary lest I create enough of a butterfly effect to change the course of the future and make my predictions less and less accurate and therefore less convincing to the people in charge. 

I'd certainly avoid getting addicted to Coke, and I'd work harder in university. I'd pursue writing jobs more aggressively and start that career earlier, given my decades of subjective experience. I'd stay in shape; keeping weight off is a heck of a lot easier if you don't get fat in the first place. 

Success or Failure?
Even if my warnings were heeded, would industry and governments take action that was bold enough and early enough to save civilization? I have no idea now, and I'd have no idea as I aged from seven up. I might get an inkling by the 2020s; if things aren't as bad in that decade the second or third or fourth time around, I'd know my strategy was paying off. Maybe, as in the book, I'd survive my destined death once civilization was safe, and maybe I'd get enough extra years of life to enjoy the fruits of my efforts. 

It's a nice fantasy. How terrible that I need it. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Lincoln Waypoint's Shopping List

Lincoln Waypoint, an 8th-level fighter and a new member of Sword Coast Solutions, has found himself woefully short of arrows in his travels. He's also nearly been killed on no less than three occasions after being a member of the mercenary party for just a few days. 

Thankfully, respite awaits in the thriving port city of Waterdeep. Lincoln has learned that he needs to be better prepared for the dangers of the Sword Coast. 

Thus, he's made a shopping list: 

The largest quiver he can find
100 arrows
A horse with saddle, tack, and saddlebags
A rapier
A whip
As many healing potions as he can find
Chain mail armour
A small bag of sand
A ten-foot pole
Ball bearings
A dose of antitoxin
Fishing tackle
Insect repellent
A magnifying glass
A small mirror
A whistle
Ten days of iron rations
Two torches
Some black greasepaint
A change of clothes
A white poofy shirt for special occasions

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Ultimate Movie

Over the years I've entertained myself with a silly daydream: What if I somehow had enough influence to create a film-within-many-films? That is, what if enough directors, producers, actors, and other creatives were willing to work with me over the course of many decades--ideally, a full century--to tell an epic story running in the background of other movies? 

I'll illustrate what I mean if this had happened in the 20th century. Let's say The Great Train Robbery (1903) plays out exactly as you'd expect, but in a single shot in the background, a mysterious cloaked figure charges through the woods, shooting at something offscreen. The cloaked figure appears in other short films through the aughts, always in the deep background chasing something, his or her face never revealed. Keep in mind these appearances would not be obvious, but nor would they be unfair; ideally, the casual viewer's attention will be focused on the real action, but the sharp-eyed members of the audience will gradually, over the course of years, realize that something strange is going on at the movies. 

As the years and decades go by, the cloaked figure's identity face is eventually seen - but more than once. The cloaked figure's identity shifts with the years, sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, sometimes one ethnicity, sometimes another. Other characters start to interact with the cloaked figure; in Frankenstein, some of these recurring figures appear in the mob besieging the mad scientist's castle. In Casablanca, they're at the airport, perhaps bribing someone. They're on Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest. Over time, as actors age and die or retire, the overarching background story will continue, but with new actors and new characters. Until, as the century closes, their stories will begin to interact in larger ways with the worlds of the films they inhabit. They might try to shake Kinkaid back to reality in Total Recall. They'll work against - or are they really working with? - Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible

Naturally I don't know the actual plot of the gigantic meta-movie I'm describing here, but just imagine more and more pieces of the puzzle revealing themselves over the years. Of course, no one would be able to predict which films would include part of the mystery; naturally they would not all be hit movies. It's just as likely for this storyline to inhabit A-list, B-list, C-list, and even Z-list pictures - and all the better for it! But the closer you get to the end of the century, the greater the chances movie lovers will be able to puzzle out what's happening. And ideally, given a brilliant writer (someone more brilliant than me), the story will wrap up in grand fashion - a satisfying conclusion not only from an entertainment standpoint, but one that say something about film and the world we inhabit. 

I'm putting this idea out into the universe because obviously I'll never be the one driving it. But maybe sometime in the future, if somehow The Earliad survives and humanity itself makes it through our various existential crises and keeps telling visual stories, maybe some future genius will like this idea and bring it to fruition, entertaining audiences for literal generations. 

Would that be grand, or am I crazy? 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Grave Cacti

Here's most of the rest of the batch of objects Jeff 3D-printed for me - more scenery for the Nuka-World theme park. In addition to more cacti stands, we also have five dreary graves. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Nuka-World Cacti

Here's a stand of fake cacti--fake not in the sense that they're miniatures made of plastic, but that in the world they inhabit, these cacti are made not of flesh and water, but plastic and metal. Jeff 3D-printed some Fallout: Wasteland Warfare STLs for me, and I've started painting the Nuka-World set. Nuka-World is a theme park set outside Boston in the Fallout 4 computer game; it has a bit of a Wild West feel in some places, hence the cacti. 

I painted these exclusively with Citadel contrast paints, just to see if they would do a serviceable job. I think they'll do; because these are fake sets in the world of the games, I don't mind them looking a little plastic-y or metallic, rather than natural. 

Monday, July 11, 2022

The Further Adventures of the Adventure People


Over ten years ago, I wrote about the Wilderness Patrol Adventure People set I received as a Christmas gift way back in 1976. To my flabbergasted surprise and utter delight, on Saturday Sean gave me a virtually complete, mint-condition Wilderness Patrol set he found on Ebay. They're all here: the forest ranger, the collie, Red, the pilot, the sleeping bags, the pontoon boat, the plain, and the ATV. The only thing missing is the tow rope, which is pretty insignificant. The toys and figures are all in outstanding shape considering their age, and they brought a whole raft of memories flooding back. These guys really lived up to their name, both in Leaf Rapids and Leduc--exploring the "desert sands" of Leaf Rapids (the beautiful beach sand ground so finely by the retreating glaciers thousands of years ago) and the "dense jungles" of Leduc (the lawn and plants of our back yard). 

Sean, this was an incredibly thoughtful and impactful gift, and I'll find these guys a place of honour when the library is transformed into the game room. 

Sunday, July 10, 2022

A Milestone for Mom

Today Mom turns 80! Yesterday Sean, Sylvia and I went to her place to celebrate with a scrumptious BBQ and a lovely visit. I remain so grateful that she remains sharp and healthy. Happy Birthday, Mom! 

Saturday, July 09, 2022

A Committee of Vultures

I had a huge amount of fun painting this quintet of vultures from Pulp Figures and then placing them within a desert diorama of my own creation. 

The little oasis, the canteen, and the chest are bait for adventurers. Are there valuables here? Water, at least, is precious in the desert. But why are these vultures hanging around? 

Friday, July 08, 2022

Busted Rusty Bus

I finally found a paint that comes close to school bus yellow, but I covered up most of it with various shades of grime and rust! 

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Red Cliff


And finally, a red cliff, my least favourite of the three. This might warrant a complete redo. 

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Brown Cliff

Scatter terrain helps improve immersion in tabletop roleplaying games, but some pieces are less flamboyant than others. Here's a simple cliff space, dry brushed in shades of brown and then washed in earthshade. 

Monday, July 04, 2022

Victim of the Car Wars

Here's the first playing piece I've painted for the sixth edition of Car Wars--a wrecked car flipped over on its backside. 

I painted the main body in thin coats of yellow with red and metallic accents, then used weathering pencils to add sand and smoke stains. 

I also smeared on some Armageddon Dust to serve as dried mud. 

This model will serve the purpose, but truth be told, I'm not terribly happy with it. It looks messy and ill-formed to my eye, but I'm not sure what I would have done differently. 

Sunday, July 03, 2022

Project Burger Baron: Drayton Valley


Drayton Valley's Burger Baron occupies the middle tier of the pseudo-chain's rankings, offering bland fries, a merely decent pizza burger, and a superb chocolate milkshake. This location also offers pizza and pasta, which I haven't seen at many other Burger Barons. Or is that Burgers Baron? 

The best Burger Baron locations should look as if they're about to fall apart, and Drayton Valley's Baron qualifies. The grounds are expansive and well-maintained, but the building itself is rather ramshackle and covered in cracked, peeling stickers, most of a decidedly rural-industrial outlook. The menu boards are bright orange with faded black type--faded almost to the point of illegibility for some items and prices. A swingset, not pictured here because it was behind me when I took this photo, offers fun for the kids. Children play at their own risk! 

The proprietor was friendly and genial, and would probably enjoy this poorly-composed shot of me with a tree growing out of my head. 

Should you stop at Burger Baron when you visit Drayton Valley? Yes, because even middling Burger Baron is better than no Burger Baron. But other locations might offer a more satisfying repast.