Friday, 31 May 2019

Late night WIP


Lots of work on my workspace in recent days. While I'd love to show you what I'm working on now, I will have to wait until these models are formally released by Wyrd. All I can say for now is this: you're in for a treat with M3E plastics. Wyrd has upped their production standard yet again and the new minis are even better than those from M2E.

#12/2019 Factfulness


The book starts with a series of questions about global trends. It's easy yo get them wrong and what Rosling has proven is even more surprising. Apparently, a group of chimpanzees is more likely to get more correct replies than high profile members of elite organizations with worldwide reach. These questions reveal ten factors that impact our perception of the world. It turns out that more often than not, our perception of the world are wrong. This relates, among other issues, to how we see progress (the prevalent view that "things are getting worse"), how we are presented the news (focus on the negative, fear), and how we like to split the world into two (us/them, developed/developing countries). 
Rosling, using fact-based and logical reasoning, proves that our world is in much better shape than we think. Each of the initial questions is dissected and analyzed using different viewpoints and contrasted with diversified data. Seeing the world from the negative perspective, without taking relevant data and different viewpoints into account, causes us to lose focus and perspective. 
Very good read, this one should be an obligatory book on the reading list for high-school/college students as it encourages independent thinking and promotes fact-based approach to discussion.

#11/2019 Leadershift

I've  made a major change in my career quite recently, moving from administrative position in public sector, to begin from scratch in a private sector. I read somewhere a review of this book that stated it offered valuable insights into dynamically changing business reality. I thought it could give me some food for thought that would help me adapt better into new situation, and I was right.
John c. Maxwell goes through 11 changes that he's made to adapt his leadership to meet new circumstances. Among others these include a change from ladder climbing to ladder building - a concept I've adapted for a while using the socio-cultural framework and the concept of scaffolding.
Maxwell begins by making a clear distinction between management and leadership. The former is based on quantifiable, known facts, and is associated with stability. Leadership, on the other hand, means working effectively with many unknown factors. 
The author offers many interesting insights into how the proposed changes could be achieved. He strongly believed that leaders should create other leaders, and as such, they should not only blaze the trail, but also make sure that the path to follow is easily accessible. Being a transformational leader is seen as inspiring people to step out of their comfort zone, identifying what they see as obstacles, and helping them overcome those.
Some of the ideas in Maxwell's book are very innovative and challenge the traditional approach to being a leader. Other go through the fundamentals in a refreshing way. Definitely a good read, not only for leaders but for all interested in how work environment in modern business looks like.

#10/2019 Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation


I've never been a big fan of "positive thinking" as I think just hoping for the best and planning for it doesn't get one too far. Gabriele Oettigen presents vast research background to prove that this can actually be true. Focusing only on positive outcome can drain our energy and cause our performance to be lower. Instead, she proposed mental contrasting. It is a visualization technique that is strongly connected to one's expectation of success - the higher it is, the better the outcome. The technique is not that complex. It starts with thinking about/writing down positive effects of what you want to achieve. Following that, some time should be devoted to focusing on the most beneficial effects of achieving your goal. After that, attention should be paid to the biggest obstacles. And that's the gist of it, visualizing goals and obstacles, and contrasting them. 
Oettigen has also developed a tool that facilitates the whole process. It is called WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan). This is supposed to help redirect thoughts to the process of mental contrasting and make it more effective.
In general, I like these ideas and have subconsciously used these strategies before. What I'd do differently is (for example before attempting a challenging task/having a tough conversation), is that I'd try to imagine more challenges and try to predict my rely to potential problematic scenarios.


#9/2019 The Art of the Deal


I reached for this book as I wanted to read something that actually shows Trump in a positive light. What better way that something that he wrote himself?
I've never thought highly of him as a person/leader but his financial success is undeniable. I thought that "The Art of the Deal" might be a way to redeem, at least slightly, what I've read about him in "Fear, Trump in White House".
This one is basically his diary, an account of his daily work and thoughts on running large business. For the most part, he sticks to some main principles:
- be bold in your decision-making,
- family comes first (his children were just small kids at the time the book was written),
- value relationships with people you've got good history with.
 While I still don't feel much sympathy for the man, I have to admit that some of his characteristics like consistency in planning and acting as well as keeping firmly to your beliefs.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Marcus x3


Marcus the beastmaster. One of the most interesting characters in the world of Malifaux An educated man who combines deep knowledge with profound understanding of wilderness. Here in three versions.


Friday, 26 April 2019

Ulver - Vowels





Loveless vessels

We vow

Solo love

We see

Love solve loss

Else we see

Love sow woe

Selves we woo

We lose

Losses we levee

We owe

We sell

Loose vows

So we love

Less well

So low

So level

Wolves evolve

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Myranda warning


This one was meant to be painted as a Native American. I used Foundry paints for the first time here (Native American Flesh triad) and I really liked it. Good coverage, nice consistency (only a little water needed to make it run smoothly off the brush). I also wanted her clothes to look like some primitive, hand-made garb and followed basic highlights with some very thin brush strokes to imitate material texture.


The miniature is OK but while I like the ultra dynamic pose (fitting her onto those resin hunted tree stumps was a bit tricky), it looks a bit off, especially her right leg seems to be positioned in an unnatural way.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

The Messenger - new and improved miniature carrying case

This review is cat-approved
I got my A-Case almost two years ago. It has served me very well since then. I've worn in rain, snow and heat. I traveled by plane to a tournament abroad, and it perfectly fit both under the passenger seat and in the luggage storage on board. After using other alternatives (foam, plastic containers) I was really happy to make the switch to a metal case and magnetize my minis. What is more, after all this time, the case still looks good as new and there is no wear and tear visible. 

I spend long hours making sure my minis are painted to a high standard and really hate it when there are accidents and the paint chips off or the minis or when they get damaged. Using magnets for keeping minis safely locked in the bag has been a blessing. I've had no problems since I started using it. Yet, every rose has its thorns. 

After a while when my collection started growing exponentially, there wasn't enough space to pack all my minis and I had to decide which ones are going to a tourney and which are staying in the glass cabinet. Malifaux is a skirmish game and requires only several miniatures in a game but you want to make sure you have more options when building competitive lists. Also, while the minis were kept super safe in the bag, after some time the shelves started feeling a little clunky. Not to a degree which would make using the case inconvenient but still, it was a factor and I had to always bear in mind the fact that I need to be extra careful while sliding them in or out. The case also has an external pocket that can fit small bits like tokens or measuring gadgets. Useful but that's never been enough to store all the game aids I wanted to take with me to a tourney. 

Those are not big problems by far. Rather, as mentioned earlier - small thorns on a pretty rose. I realize, these may seem like your typical "first world problems". Still, despite these minor issues I've been very happy with my bag. 

That's why when I learned that the company is launching another Kickstarter with new, improved versions of the bag, I was immediately interested. Thanks to the creator of campaign, Olo, I soon received a parcel with my carrying case. There are three versions available in the campaign (more on that later), and I opted for the middle one - The messenger. 




Size and material 

It's obviously bigger, as you can very well see in the picture above in which my old case easily fits into the Messenger. Its dimensions are: height 31,5cm/12,40in, width 40cm/15,74in, depth 21cm/8,26in. It means it can still be used as carry-on luggage on a plane. But it's not all about the size here. I just love the new material. Instead of plain silver galvanized steel, we get powder-coated steel trays in powder-coated aluminum frame. It has an incredibly luxurious feel to it. It looks very elegant and feels much more solid than the previous version. 

The assembly process has also been simplified. Instead of bending flat aluminum sheets into shape and then putting them together, the set comes with ready elements that just need to be connected. No tools are needed. There is a really neat lock system and the whole process takes no more than five minutes. 
Safe Teddy is a happy Teddy
The trays are not only wider and deeper. Their movement is just flawless. They slide in and out easily without any hitches. It's so satisfying, knowing that your precious minis are easily accessible and you don't need even take into consideration how fast/slow/at what angle you pull on the tray. Just like with the older version, there are metal bolts to keep the trays in place. There is one more thing - rubber attachments that keep them connected to the trays at all times. A clever solution that allows you not to worry about losing them.

one of the new, smart solutions
Inside, there are 7 slots for trays. It means that you can customize the height of each tray. At this point of the KS campaign a third one has been unlocked and that's a perfect number for me as a Malifaux player. However, if you feel you need more options, additional trays can be added to your KS pledge. 

There are two options to carry the Messenger. Either a handle firmly attached to the top, or an adjustable strap with a shoulder pad. Both work very well. 

Messenger has a huge side pocket. It easily fits a thick Ultra Pro-Binder album and there is still plenty of space left for all other gaming essentials you may need. 

A few words should be written about the price-quality ratio. Let's be honest - wargaming is not a cheap hobby. Some people pay as much as $100 or more for just a few, or even for a single miniature (the author of this review is guilty as charged!). What should be stressed is that buying A-Case is a long time investment. My previous case lasted almost 2 years without any problems and I expect to get even more out of my new one. As such, paying $139+shipping for a product that will last for years and will ensure the safety of my miniatures is a reasonable expense. 


My whole Neverborn force easily fits in and there's still plenty of space left


Summary 

The creators have done their homework and managed to turn all problematic points into major strengths. I honestly can't think of any way in which this carrying case could be improved. Maybe adding Bluetooth, WiFi adapter, and remote control? 

It's a wonderfully well designed and polished product. The creators have listened to all the feedback they've gathered over the years and they've been respectful towards their clients. A-Case is not a global company. It's basically just one guy with passion who makes the best out of working with his target group, and I can honestly admit that I feel happy to be part of this community. 

Olo from A-Case says hello. Left to tight: Kane, Messanger, Victory 2.0
P.S. The KS campaign runs until Mon, April 22 2019 4:05 PM CEST. Make sure you check it out as they have two other carrying cases available. Victory 2.0 is an improved version of the small one I used to use. Perfect solution for small skirmish games. The other one is Kane - a true beast designed for those who want to carry really huge armies. 




Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Tyger Tyger, burning bright


Tyger Tyger, burning bright, 
In the forests of the night; 
What immortal hand or eye, 
Could frame thy fearful symmetry? 


What can be cooler than a three-headed Tiger model? Hard to beat that. I decided to use blue for the most part as I've always struggled with this color on larger surfaces. It was a little easier here as there is some fur texture on the main body to serve as guidance. I started with some general highlights on the body, making sure to leave enough dark blue in the recesses. Following that, I kept adding numerous thin brushstrokes in gradually brighter colors to build up the fur texture. It was a very lengthy and tedious process but it was a good practice for sure. I added some touches of brown/dark red and glazes of light blue and green to keep it more "natural" (as much as this word can be used to talk about blue fur of a three headed Tiger). I also thought that blue would nicely contrast with a predominantly green base.




#8/2019 The President Is Missing

I was immediately intrigued when I saw the cover and who the authors are. A political thriller written by a former PotUS at least holds a promise of accurate representation of how different pieces in the administration work together.
It's a story of a major cyber attack threat against the US. I like the way that the concept of "Internet of things" as a development in technology that can be used to effectively shut down the entire nation. While these aspects are presented in a coherent and well structured way, the language often feels a tad harsh, not well refined. It is really hard to come up with ideas that could be used for showing cyber threats in this modern technology-driven world and I liked the way the characters of Augie and Nina are introduced. Still, for the most part the novel failed to keep me involved and I found myself passively following the plot without being absorbed in it.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Samurai with minigun


Not much more to write other than the title. The minis are quite ridiculous and the kneeling one is really badly scaled. The sculpts are probably a nod to a BS movie called "Sucker Punch" that had some nice visuals to make up for lack of content and terrible acting.
The armor plates were painted using Red Goblin from colorshift range by Greenstuffworld. Easy to apply and they immediately give a nice effect. I applied some black ink in the recesses and lightly worked bright silver onto the edges to add it a bit more definition.


Friday, 29 March 2019

Razorspine Rattlers


These four big snakes were quite a challenge. Mainly as there were dozens of scales that needed slow and careful highlighting. The dark ones are inspired by Australia's Red Bellied snake, one of the most dangerous ones out there.
I've also finally got to paint my old metal version of this miniature. Tough to say which one I like more as the plastic ones look more impressive overall although they don't have so well defined details.
I wanted to keep with the swampy theme so I've applied some pure Vallejo Still water effect an top of final highlights to give the skin a glossy look.
Now, time for the three-headed tiger and Marcus.





#7/2019 Little Fires Everywhere


The novel starts with a fire at a family house that was most likely the result of arson. Family members immediately have a suspect - family's black sheep Izzy. This way of presenting the story allows readers to pay close attention to all the events that lead up to this situation. Events and complex family relations. Because at its core, Little Fires Everywhere is a family tale. 
We have the Richardsons - wealthy and seemingly happy family living in a large house. Mia - a photographer, artist, and a restless soul who constantly changes her address, starts renting part of their rental house. She moves in with her daughter, Pearl. Over time she notices that Pearl spends most of her time at Richardsons' place and openly admires their daughter Lexie. Mia is soon offered a job as a housekeeper there and decides to take it in order to have a chance to check on her daughter there.
There are many complex human relations here. Mia's difficult past comes to haunt her as Miss Richardson begins investigating it.
Celeste Ng creates lively, credible characters. Richardson children go through their maturing and face challenges involved with it face-on. While they seem to be a perfect family, moments of crisis reveal cracks in that structure, both on personal, and on emotional level. I picked this novel totally randomly and this is not the type of prose I typically read but it was surprisingly enjoyable nonetheless.

#6/2019 The Fisherman


John Langan's "The Fisherman" has a lot of what I've found to be lacking in recent novels by Stephen King. Set in a small town, with credible characters and elements of the supernatural that are introduced subtly, with well built tension along the way. As Abe and Dan, two widowers, try to come to terms with their loses, they discover a passion for fishing. This hobby brings them close together, but it also gets them tangled in an old and dark tale that. There's a nice story-within a story that sets the scene for the main events in the novel. At times it even feels Lovecraftian with dark cults and larger-than-life dark creatures.
I really liked the way Langan moves smoothly from a hearsay tale filled with ominous evil to present narrative, without losing the pace and managing to maintain the suffocating atmosphere. Also, his vision of afterlife is really interesting, even though it is unsettling too.

#5/2019 The Breakdown



This is probably the worst novel by BA Paris I've read. The plot is rather simple - a woman travels by car late night in bad weather and notices a car with another woman inside. She stops to check on her and after a while gets spooked and decides to leave. The following day she finds that the woman she saw was murdered. Wracked with guilt, she can't stop thinking about the situation. It gets worse as more details of the crime are released and events take a turn for the worse, making her question her sanity.
The mystery is there, the plot thickens as strange events begin to pile up but what I found lacking was... perhaps substance? In essence, this is a rather simple story, limited to only a few characters and contained within relatively small area. That means the possibilities for a potential antagonist are very limited and it's not too difficult to figure out that something feels odd about the whole thing early on. That being said, it's still a solid page-turner. 

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Rumble in the Jungle

 Cojo was one of the biggest winners of various erratas that Wyrd has introduced to balance the game. For his fairly low cost he is a versatile beater/scheme runner/scheme denier. 
I have never painted a monkey or ape model before so I approached this mini with some apprehension. While I do like the proportions and pose, I don't care much for the spikes on his forearms and his back. Hard to imagine him pounding his chest in battle-ready stance with these on but they do explain his ferocious (pained?) expression. 





As always painting white, especially on such big surface, was a challenge. I focused on diluting the paint with water to very thin consistency here and applying multiple layers for smooth blends (both on fur and skin parts). Skin part was tricky as I started with purplish tone and worked it up with browns to light yellow. I also wanted to make sure that the swampy part of his base looks murky, as if he stirred it bu wading through water.


Jackalope was painted in a similar color scheme with the main difference on his fur as I tried to make it look more rumpled and filthy. The severed/bitten off head was given several glazes of different colors varying ranging from brown to blue to give it a slightly decomposed look. I was working on 4 models simultaneously so that sped things up a little. I've also decided to use glowing eyes effect to give them extra element of magical/unnatural appearance.

Goodbye my little friend



I know it's a hobby blog but since this cat was present here on many occasions I feel it's right to write a few final words about him.
"Tuptuƛ" was such a nice, gentle presence in my life that it was truly heartbreaking to have him put down. He had pretty good 8 years with my family during which he managed to survive leg amputation and a number of other serious diseases. Sure, he had his shortcomings like lying in the middle of my workspace or neglecting to use his litterbox for #1. But he was also a fighter who lived his life to the fullest despite many limitations. Having him around has made me a calmer, gentler, more emphatic, qualities that make me a better person. I guess he used up at least a few of his extra cat lives during his time with us. Sadly, the last one wasn't too good. All the infections he'd gone through had taken their toll on him. It was hard to watch him gradually fade into the state of pain and confusion. The decision to have him put down was probably the toughest I've ever had to take but deep down I believe it was the right call.

his big buddy is already missing him
his last pic, probably not the most flattering one




It's funny how we get used to the company of our furry family members and take them for granted. Still, they do affect us in a positive way and leave many good memories to be cherished. It may seem strange to write it but I do believe having him around has made me a better person. He's also taught my kids (sometimes with the help of his teeth or nails) to be more gentle and kinder to smaller creatures. And those who say that animals don't have emotions couldn't be farther from the truth. My second cat has been miserable for last two days and has been walking around our apartment, crying in what sounded like eerily human-like voice. Time probably heals wounds and all will be fine once we come to terms with it and are able to distance ourselves a little...
You will be missed, my little friend.


Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Orange Saboteurs




 Not much to say here really - I was asked to paint these using very bright, vivid shade of orange on their robes so that's what I did.




Sunday, 17 February 2019

Frozen




Wow, this miniature was fun to work with on so many levels. The model itself is part pewter, part resin. While working on it I started with a basic blue sketch and applied some very basic blue highlights and shades. After that I divided the model into three thematic sections (main body, crystals, Rasputina) that would use the same basecoat, but be different in saturation of blue. It's hard to describe specific steps at this point as I was going back and forth with highlights, shades, and glazes. 





The base (Gadzooks gaming transparent crystal base insert) meant another challenge. Paint wouldn't adhere to it so after some experimentation I basecoated it with a thin layer of Army Painter matt varnish and that did the trick. Before gluing it to the base I added a Frozen Lake (Mats by mars ) base inserts. This ensured that the surface beneath the transparent insert would have a nice, bright and realistic look. I painted the stone parts using light blue ink and the crystals with a turquoise one. The river area between the rocks was tricky to work with as I wanted to have some floating ice in it. Fortunately, I had Vallejo crackle medium. Here's a quick tutorial on how to achieve this effect.

1. Take Vallejo crackle medium and throw it away (literally, it is just useless. I've spent hours experimenting with thickness, order of secondary/primary paints). It just doesn't work.

2. Apply a thick layer of GW Agrellan Earth.

3. Highlight it with mix of light blue and white, followed by pure white.

4. Apply 2-3 layers of Vallejo still water mixed with some light blue ink.



#4/2019 The Norsemen: Understanding Vikings and Their Culture



A fascinating series of lectures by Professor Michael D.C. Drout. He goes through the history, society, religious beliefs, as well as myths that we've come to associate with the Vikings. Hi account of how these people conquered most of the Northern Europe offers amazing insights into their organization. He does that with a very down-to-earth approach. He is appreciative of their achievements but at the same time offers some criticisms of factors that held them back.

#3/2019 The Neuroscience of Mindfulness



The Neuroscience of Mindfulness: The Astonishing Science behind How Everyday Hobbies Help You Relax confirms what I've found to be true myself. Simple, repetitive tasks performed everyday have concrete benefits. They help us relax but they can also improve our attitude to life in general and help us deal more efficiently with various problems and health issues. Mindfulness is a kind of tool that potentially allows one to direct thoughts in a certain way to make such tasks more beneficial. These theories are supported by numerous findings in the field of neuroscience. The author presents everything in a coherent way that is easy to follow, even for a person without specialist knowledge in the field.

#2/2019 Bring Me Back



I read the literary debut of BA Paris a while ago and enjoyed the way she told that story. Very intense, filled with extreme emotions, solid plot. "Bring me Back" starts with a cliffhanger. A man narrates a story of how a woman seemingly gets kidnapped during a foreign trip ends with a statement that the man didn't tell the whole truth to the police. 12 years pass and as the protagonist seems to be finally at peace with his life, the past catches up to him.

The dual narrative is a neat device as there are two completely different views on the events as they develop. While at some point I began having certain suspicions, the ending didn't fail to surprise me. Perhaps not brilliant but definitely a solid read.

#1/2019 Becoming




This autobiography caused some buzz way before its release. Getting to know more about life of Obamas from the inside perspective seemed like a unique treat. I'd be lying if I wrote that learning about Michelle's life was the main incentive here. Like many other readers, I was keen on finding out more about Barack. And while he plays a major part here, the story his wife tells about her upbringing in Chicago is quite interesting in itself. I was surprised to learn that they actually met while Barack was Michelle's mentee during his internship at a law firm. She presents a fascinating background to their mutual stories, her struggles with career decisions and learning how to make positive impact as the first lady; his constant striving to do more for other people. All of this is filled with anecdotes and insightful observations that would be otherwise impossible to learn about by an outside observer. I also appreciated the author's honesty in talking about problems (miscarriage, her both daughters being born as a result of IVF, marriage counseling, etc.). Despite major Geo-political differences there were many things I could relate to, especially connected with family and set of values she believes in. Also, the fact that this audiobook is read by the author herself brings a lot of authenticity to it as well.

Monday, 21 January 2019

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