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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Perhaps a Short Era of Bad Feelings

Obviously I'm not happy the United Conservative Party won the most seats in yesterday's provincial election. I find most of their policies regressive, abhorrent, and inimical to human happiness and quality of life not just in Alberta, but beyond. 

On the other hand, the provincial New Democrats just formed the largest Official Opposition in Alberta history, and they have grown their vote share election after election. It's possible that beginning in 2015, Alberta entered an era of not-necessarily-uninterrupted right-wing rule. New Democrats have proven that progressives can win and can come close to winning. 

Indeed, had less than two thousand votes swung from the UCP to the NDP in Calgary, the NDP would have won a majority of seats. As things stand, when you consider the UCP needs to elect a speaker and one of their MLAS will sit as an independent because of her sickening comments about transgendered people during the campaign, the UCP's majority is really quite narrow--only a handful of seats. The election being this close may possibly stop the UCP from being too cavalier about inflicting their worst policies on Albertans, lest they swing just a few too many moderates away from the UCP and over to the New Democrats in 2027. 

It's a sliver of hope for more rational governance. That's what I cling to today. 

Monday, May 29, 2023

Alberta Votes 2023: A Choice of Eras

About 30 minutes from the time I write this, news stations will begin to report on the results of the 2023 Alberta provincial election. This time around, Albertans are choosing between the centrist New Democratic Party led by Rachel Notley and the United Conservative Party led by Danielle Smith. 

Should Rachel Notley's NDP win, I expect a middle-of-the-road government that will attempt to shore up Alberta's public health care system, balance the needs of the oil and gas industry with our collective need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect human rights, and reinvest in public education. I also expect a government reasonably free of drama and scandal. In other words, I expect something like Rachel Notley's first government term from 2015-2019. 

Should Danielle Smith's UCP win, I fully expect her government attempt to further privatize our health care, foster the ever-vocal alt-right movement in Canada, get rid of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in favour of an Alberta police force, withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan in favour of an Alberta pension plan, slash taxes for the rich and corporations while increasing user fees for public services (including health care), and, Florida-style, attack marginalized people of all kinds through vindictive legislation. I also expect a greater-than-average level of corruption. 

Historians in the United States refer to a ten-year period from about 1815 to 1825 as the "Era of Good Feeling," renowned for its unusual optimism among the public and the political class. 

I feel like we've been in an "Era of Bad Feeling" since 2016 or so. The roots of the Trump presidency go far, far back into American history, of course, but Trump gave racists and regressive permission to say the quiet parts out loud--to openly threaten anyone not on their team, to embrace ethnocentrism and racism, and to advocate against democracy. 

I don't believe Rachel Notley's team has the power to usher in an Albertan Era of Good Feeling. I think they could deliver an Era of Relative Calm, or perhaps an Era of Hints of Better Times Ahead. 

I do believe that a UCP victory will lead to a made-in-Alberta Era of Bad Feelings. It'll be a place where the fearful and the cruel will be given outsized influence, while the thoughtful and the compassionate will have to fight to hold back the tide of regress. 

I have no idea what Albertans will choose. We'll know soon enough. 

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Rolo Out the Barrel

A few weeks ago, Sean and I stopped at the Val-Mart in Leduc for some groceries. I noticed the store had Rolo candies, which I haven't had since the 1980s. On a lark, I picked up a roll specifically so that I could place two Rolos bottom-to-bottom, as pictured above, to form a barrel shape. I used to do this as a kid, for reasons long forgotten. I guess I thought it somehow looked neat? 

I was, and am, easily amused. 

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Atari 400 Rising

Sylvia and I spent some time cleaning up the garage this weekend, and in the process I found the old Woods family Atari 400 plus most of our cartridges for the system and a few manuals. At least three of the best games--Pac-Man, Tennis, and most tragic of all, Star Raiders--are missing. 

None of our joysticks, either Atari branded or third party, survived. I guess we were pretty hard on them. I don't think we ever had paddle controllers, and we threw away all the peripherals a few years ago, after they stopped working. 

But as far as I know, the computer itself still operates--at least, it did the last time we tested it, which was, to be fair, at least a decade ago now. 

I also found an Intellivision Space Armada cartridge in the box. That's weird, because we never owned an Intellivision, and I don't think any of my friends or Sean's ever brought an Intellivision over to our house. 

I'm tempted to find some joysticks and hook this up to the TV, but I'd have to find some kind of converter to make that possible; the inputs the Atari used don't exist on most modern television sets. 

Friday, May 26, 2023

Professor Cuthbert Cufflink

Here was have a stern-looking gentleman I have dubbed Professor Cuthbert Cufflink. As usual, this miniature looks much better on the table than it does in this zoomed-in photo, but even so I'm happy with the face this time around. Painting faces at this scale is amazingly challenging, at least for me, but this time around the mini's features are quite well defined. Yes, his eyebrows are skin-toned rather than white, but I didn't want to take the risk of trying to fix them. It's not noticeable on the table. 

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Star Controls

I tried to convince Stable Diffusion to replicate the famous Atari logo set against a starfield background, but this is what it came up with. I think they'd serve nicely as control surfaces or instruments on a 1970s science fiction show. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Red Rocket Garage and Coolant Pumps

Tonight I finished painting the Red Rocket garage Jeff 3D-printed for me. This 32mm-scale building is a terrain piece for the Fallout: Wasteland Warfare tabletop wargame. 

The world of Fallout takes place after World War III, so naturally building like this will be found in pretty terrible shape. So after painting the garage in the signature Red Rocket colours, I added a number of effects: various shades of rust, oil spills, general decay, and hardscrabble plant life. 

For extra interest, I added some spare parts from Fallout kits I'd painted earlier. Here, you can see the discarded rear panel of a Nuka-Cola vending machine. 

Over on this side we have an ammo container and a tickle trunk.

Here's a glimpse of the interior. Note a couple of birds on the roof, rare signs of vibrant life in the wasteland. These birds were extras from a Marvel: Crisis Protocol terrain set. 

Finally, here's a pair of coolant pumps. In Fallout, vehicles before the atomic war were powered by atomic energy, so instead of visiting fuel stations for gas, you fill up on reactor coolant. 

Monday, May 22, 2023

Christmas in May

While driving to pick up Sylvia on Saturday night, I pulled over to take this photo of a home festooned with Christmas lights. Well, why not? They're pretty, and they helped alleviate the gloom of the wildfire smoke. 

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Generation X-tinction

Last night Sylvia was out visiting Norma, so I puttered around watering the plants and trying not to choke on the wildfire smoke. This photo doesn't really do justice to the terrible air quality.

This one comes closer, though. My frame of mind is pretty pessimistic these days, what with <gestures at everything>. As I was shooting some photos of the apocalyptic sky, I thought about my own privilege, and how Generation X seems to be the last generation to have had a shot at living prosperously--that is, a lot of us own our own homes, we have well-paying jobs, and (perhaps) a chance at a decent retirement. Aside from a very lucky few, the Millennials, Gen Z, and those following have the cards stacked against them in terms of career opportunities, relatively stable government, general affordability, and so on. 

The post-war boom of the mid-20th century gave us the illusion and the expectation that generation after generation would enjoy more prosperity than the one preceding it. That notion has fallen apart, thanks to a tiny minority of psychopathic billionaires and their political enablers working together to hoard the planet's wealth while destroying the biosphere in the process. 

And in the midst of all this, polls still suggest that this month's provincial election is still a 50-50 race between Rachel Notley's NDP and Danielle Smith's UCP, who are hell-bent on privatizing our public institutions and reviving the coal industry even in the midst of wildfires burning down communities and poisoning our air.

What a world we've made for ourselves. 

Saturday, May 20, 2023

Azurcelt the Headstrong

Earlier this year, Jeff led our final session of Storm King's Thunder, a Dungeons and Dragons adventure. After the campaign, he gave each of us a 3D-printed giant to commemorate the occasion. Today, I finally painted mine. I'm not that thrilled with the result; I'm out of practice. But I do like the base, and I think I did a decent job on the eyes, outh, and hands. It's the clothing that really threw me off. 

I dub this giant Azurcelt the Headstrong. 

Friday, May 19, 2023

Dirty Harry as an Action Figure with Ten Points of Articulation

I find it interesting how Stable Diffusion not only captures Clint Eastwood's likeness as it might be rendered in plastic, but also its choice of setting and costume. Pretty amazing, really. And the poses! 

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Muhammad Ali as an Action Figure with Ten Points of Articulation

Now The Greatest is The Greatest Action Figure of All Time! Marvel at these dynamic poses, including the incredible moment when the Poet Laureate of Boxing floated like a butterfly to avoid a nefarious low blow!