Thursday 30 July 2009

141 Good Things in the World

Hullo, all,

Please excuse the rambling: I just wanted to big-up the NHS.

I just got back this morning from a tonsillectomy and overnight observation - I've never felt so very, very professioanlly cared for. We all know there are horror stories - often blown out of proportion by the press - but start-to-finish this has been a superb experience.

They were very accomodating with the appointment (so I didn't have to take time off work) and the new booking system for surgery really impressed me. No lenthy waiting list, either!

The food was good, the bed comfortable and well appointed with a good view (albeit over Torbay Hospital car park), and every single member of staff was polite, capable, proficient and good humoured.

For those of you not in the UK, the NHS is the National Health Service. I know socialised healthcare is becoming more of an inflammatory issue in the US, and by no means do I wish to get all political here, but in my 29 years the 'free' healthcare from the NHS has never once failed to impress me, so I thought I'd share some positive stories, below:

My wife - from Chicago - loves the fact that her entire pregnancy ordeal is free throughout; free prescriptions for a year afterwards too. This was brought home recently by a successful friend of hers in California who jokingly suggested selling his newborn daughter in order to pay the medical fees: it hadn't even struck me that such things had to be paid for. Of course, his medical insurance will help him out, but he still needs to find the cash up-front.

My father-in-law - self-employed - can't afford to retire for the foreseeable future, because at 63 he's still footing extensive medical bills for severe back and knee injuries he received in a chopper crash way back in the 60s with the USMC [I do mean severe, too: in the last decade he's had 3(!) knee replacements, two vertebrae removed and had to have his spine rebuilt].

(Incidentally, after his first knee replacement shattered whilst visiting us over here, causing him immense pain, he was pleasantly surprised to receive free advice and a stack-load of freebie painkillers from our helpful local pharmacist. Normally, any prescription costs no more than £6.50, unless it's normally sold more cheaply. That's a blessing.

My wife's half-sister, when she first visited as a 13-year-old a few years ago, got bad earache on the plane, and refused to let us take her to the doctor, worried that her up-tight mum would be angry with her if she found out we'd spent money on a visit to the GP. If I never again hear a child worried about the incurred expense of seeing a doctor when he or she is ill or in pain, I shall die happy. That should be a given.

My late mother had a defibrillator installed (if 'installed' is the right word!) in lieu of a pacemaker. It cost £35,000 at the time - way more than my parents earned between them in a year - and with all the fantastic treatment she got for three years it didn't cost a penny beyond what we all pay in Tax and National Insurance.

In comparison to this, our beloved hound, Cadfael, had to have a couple of lumps removed back in June, and it cost over £350. I had to pay that up front before I could claim most of it back on his pet insurance, less the premium. That left a real dent, and I dread to think how I could find the money for anything more costly...or human...

I know the system isn't perfect; I know it has its detractors, and of course some other countries do it way better than us. I also know it's by no means actually free...but Man, I love the security of the NHS.

PS: This means I'm officially convalescing for two weeks whilst my throat mends, so hopefully I can get some good painting done!

Thanks for your time, as ever,

- Drax.

Monday 27 July 2009

140 Nostalgic Scenery and Advisors


Two things for today: some old scenery and my advisors-in-progress.

Old scenery first: I went back to my childhood home, and whilst there I picked up a piece of scenery that my mate Steve knocked together when we were about 14. It's pretty impressive and I reckon I could use it, though I'll just need to touch it up a little.
It wasn't until I looked at the tank to photograph it today that I realised there's an arm sticking out of the tank!
Secondly - since some of you have been asking - on another (less useful) piece of scenery that Steve made, here are my advisers in their current in-progress state. The one on the left is going to be my Officer of the Fleet, and the one on the right will be a Master of Ordnance.
The Fleet Officer is the FW Wiessman model ( a great model, but weird hair), and the M/Ord is a model I initially put together to be the operator for a 'centaur' remote control tank. With a peak cap and some details he'll be fine, I think.
That is all.


Thursday 23 July 2009

139 A few things, briefly...


1) I noticed t'other day that as they count as 'defensive' grenades, frag grenades can be used in assault on vehicles. If that's right, then even my basic guardsmen (now equipped with frag) can chance punching a hole in AV10.

2) There are some very nice people in this blog community.

3) I played my first ever 'pickup' game last week (even though I started playing 40K in 2nd Ed!) - it was on Vassal [sniff!] and aagainst a chap called 'Ryan' who - out of the blue - asked me if I fancied a scrap. Warily, I agreed and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing: I played againgst 'Nids for the first time. My point being, having observed many other games on Vassal and seen how petty and unsporting people can be when anonymous, I was dreading the worst. Ryan was an absolute gent to play against, as 73rd always is. Generosity and good humour can go a long way!

4) I'm enjoying the speedy painting of my old-style storm troopers far more than I anticipated!

Cheers, all!

- Drax.

PS: Finally, thank you to Adam from Warhammer Tau.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

138 Motivation


Ron's been asking how we motivate ourselves. I can just about be bothered to note a few ideas:

1) It's better than work. This is important, as when I'm not actually at work, I spend a lot of time and brain power either doing or thinking about work. This is draining, so (workload permitting) I like to escape to The Shed, and I always like to scribble in my notebook and re-read rulebooks before bed. Better than dreaming about school!

2) The Shed itself. It's a bit of a pain to go out there when it's wet or when my wife wants my attention (how unreasonable!) but once I'm out there, with either BBC Radio 4 or my MP3 player for company the time simply flies by. It's unfortunate that I'm so slow a painter, but it's a nice place to be to paint, and it keeps warm enough at night*. The bugs keep me company and provide occasional entertainment.

3) Completeness and uniformity. That's why I chose Guard. Sure, it goes against me when I'm still stuck with a colour scheme from six years ago (when my painting was far less refined) and I seem to get things completed at the speed of a catatonic snail, but still...I love it when a plan comes together!

4) You lot. Yes, I find the blog a huge motivation! This is one of my main reasons for starting it, and it's really, really worked for me. I really thrive on positive feedback and in 14 months I've seen absolutely no nasty comments on anyone's blog (this side of BoLS) and only seen one which was deleted for inappropriate language, and that was all very politely dealt with!

Thanks guys: I'm glad we've stuck with it.

- Drax.

*For those of you in America, it's worth noting that in the UK the temperature usually plummets at night - even in the summer. My first experience of night time in the Chicagoland summer (whilst courting Kate back in 2000) was a real eye-opener: not only did the temperature remain warm, the very air itself was warm, so even travelling fast with the windows down failed to keep us cool. Wow!

Monday 20 July 2009

137 Veterans First Squad FINISHED!


So without further ado; with poor lighting and dubious, untrained photo-manipulation done on MS Paint, here is my version of G/Sgt Harker's Hardened Veterans Squad:
Notes on the painting comes below, but if you look (and if it'll show in the pics) there are some nice little details on some of the models - mostly courtesy of FW bits.

They're armed as follows:

Harker has his wargear including his heavy bolter, Payback; the three special weapons are a grenade launcher, a melta gun and a heavy flamer; there's a heavy weapons team with a missile launcher, and one chap has a demo charge, as per the 'Demolitions' upgrade. There's also a bloke with a voxcaster. I know it's a weird combination of weapons but I like the way it looks.*

Harker - I enjoyed cobbling together his backpack. God knows why some pics went blue:
Heavy Flamer - also fun to convert:
Grenade Launcher - one of my original vets:
Melta Gun - from the FW Cadian HQ pack. I don't like his pose, his face or the way his heraldry came out. I might redo the latter:
Missle Launcher and 'Loader' - I love this ol' model, with his sawn-off missile launcher - though I'd do it better nowadays. The other chap's nothing special:
Demo Charge - I've recently realised it's upside down...but I think I prefer it this way up. It'd probably be way too heavy to sling from your webbing at the side like that for long! You'll note his camo cloak's a different colour. What's that? - Troops improperly equipped? Surely not...:
Voxcaster - this is a no-brainer:
Two(!) normal guys with shotguns:

Anyone who read my last post will have realised that the 'dusty' look on them is because my damned varnish frosted - it's particularly obvious on some of the camouflaged cloth. Thanks for all your support/condolences/suggestions! I tarried for a long time over the shoulder pads, and eventually settled for biscuit on green with XXIV on the left (in lieu of the normal troopers' numerical '24') and (deliberately) very basic heraldry on the right. The more basic the division of the field, the longer I've had the model (or the more I like it!).

I couldn't decide with Harker's right, but having painted something out, I really enjoyed the sinister look of the black pad. Harker's left pad is the same as my (recently improved) 'self-build' - a pretty obscure non-substantive rank insignia in the British Army, but one which is dear to me, and good fun to paint.
Thanks all, and thanks for your patience.

- Drax.

*For those of you wondering, my other veteran models - including that converted sniper - are still in progress (although I'm fed up to the back teeth with 'em at the moment!).

Sunday 19 July 2009

136 FAIL on Veterans


For those of you who follow this blog, you may be aware that my veterans - 'in progress' for around 18 months or so - are almost finished.

I actually finished the painting last night, so all I had left to do with them was to varnish them and finish the bases.

So I varnished them this morning. Purity Seal - same as I always use. Brand new tin. Shook it for FIVE minutes. It went on beautifully...then frosted.


Here they are, frosted; though it's not the clearest of pics:
Luckily for me, I discovered a means of limiting frost damage back in January. Unluckily for me, I don't know quite how well it'll work with these. They're not too badly affected, but I've a feeling they're always gonna look a little...dusty.


So what have I learned? There was a lot of discussion around January time as to how to avoid frosting and when/why it occurs. From my experiences, I'm now fairly convinced that low atmospheric pressure is the main reason behind it: I should've waited for a nicer day. I still like purity seal, but I think patience is the true virtue for my future uses.

No work tomorrow!

- Drax.

Saturday 18 July 2009

135 Free At Last (and some pictures)

Huzzah! Drax is now on summer holiday from school for six weeks.

And it's already raining.

Still, t'other day I got an email from a mate who I played in a couple of games a good few months ago: he sent some slightly blurry photos from a battle. This one was a very small (500pts?) game with my [old codex] Guard Vs his very well painted Marines. Unlike me, he has a functional memory, so I'll offer you his captions:

My Dreadnought and 5 man Tac squad in the blurred distance having a tough time against your sizeable firebase:
A couple of your inf squads were running to a ruin in your centre half so you can cover a relic (meaning you'd win) and lay down extra fire:
My Librarian and tac squad teleports into the ruins of a building next to your centre half army:
One of your squads hunker in a couple of craters to protect your now exposed flank:
Your Chimera bolts off to support your flank while the shootout continues between Dread+Tac v Inf + Heavy weapons team(?) [NB: I don't think I fielded a Heavy weapons team]:
Wiped out your flank anchor squad, and are eyeing up the prize - big feckoff tank notwithstanding...
The faceoff, pre-charge!
How very sweet that he describes a chimera as a "big feckoff tank"! I must stop harassing these poor Space Marines...
Oh, and here you can see the (now half-black-painted) base cloth I discussed in my last post.
Vets are getting closer and closer...honest!
- Drax.

Monday 13 July 2009

134 Black Paint FAIL


No pic, but this weekend, to give me a break from painting veterans (they're coming along, though more about that below) I thought I'd get on with painting my playing mat.

Since I got back into the hobby I've mostly played my games on my 6x4 chipboard (in two halves). It's cheap and heavy, but it keeps its shape well and when not in use it goes beneath our mattress for extra back support. I've always covered it with an old, dark green bedsheet, stretched taught and pinned to the sides of the board or to the bottom of the table. This has the double advantage of keeping the boards together securely and obscuring the join between them, which can be too useful a mark for guaging distances. But it's green.

So I decided to paint it black. Not only that, but chuck some sand into the paint too, to give it a surface texture (I'll go back in future and get some different greys patched onto it, for depth and variety). SO I hung it over my washing line, pegged it up and mixed up the black paint/sand combo.

And brushed it on.

And thought it smelled a bit funny.

And when I tried to clean my brushes...whaddya know? - I accidentally used the pot of black emulsion paint I'd forgot I had.


There's nowhere to get brush cleaner on a sleepy Sunday afternoon in our village, either. Or at any time, I suspect.

So...I got half of the sheet covered (fairly effectively actually - but it's very unlike me to finish stuff) and I screwed up two cheap old brushes.

So let that be a warning to everyone out there: Learn to read and don't be a prat.

In Other News

Veterans all have heads now and are coming along nicely...but I playtested them in a blue-on-blue scrap in Vassal on Saturday night and I'm not impressed. Harker's lot should be fun enough on their own, but they're rubbish for long-range anti-tank and only marginally better at ranged anti-personnel. Losing the veterans' ability to infiltrate really is the unkindest cut of the new Codex. Damnit.

And today I was digging a World War I trench with kids at school. Really. Great fun but I'm bloody knackered, with another three days of it to go!


- Drax.

Tuesday 7 July 2009

133 All The Small Things

Hullo. Time to offload.

Sadly there's been only very fractional Draxian progress since my last post. Here are some of the Real-Life (TM) things which have contrived to act as chicane on my painting journey. Some of them were wonderful, wonderful distractions; some horrid; some dull and some genuinely tragic (though I won't mention those):

  1. House guests. Eight of them, in fact - in our little cottage. Two on the front room floor, two on sofas, two on the office floor and two in a tent in the garden! Great to see my old uni friends, but strewth was this place busy!
  2. The Fourth of July for my American wife. Guess who fired up the charcoal on the old bar-be-cue? Yay - meat for once!
  3. A village music festival: "Six great bands and a special guest". It was fun - especially with our guests for company...
  4. Too much work. Way too much work. It's a week-and-a-half before the summer holidays: I should be kicking back and putting on videos like my teachers used to do. Why the jiggins am I having to work til the early hours each night?
  5. Two more house guests today (the last lot left yesterday). A Canadian and a Geordie - what a mix! That's what comes of living in a pretty place in Devon: no-one ever bloody visited when we lived in Norwich...
  6. Tiredness. It's been a long slog this year: new job; new school and less money. Next year I'll be in charge of twice as many teachers and kids too. Sheesh. And my classroom's being demolished. And I'll have a sprog.
  7. Filing. I've shifted so many bloody manilla files and paperclips this term I feel like a bloomin' civil servant. Talking of which - are you guys familiar with the logo from the Office of Government Commerce?
It looks so innocent until you tilt your screen to the right!
Almost there. And my mind's not quite frazzled. Not quite.

"Aye, Mister Richie: it's Brigadoon!"

- Drax.

Wednesday 1 July 2009

132 Progress Pic of Veterans

"Does exactly what it says on the tin."

Here's my version of G/Sgt Harker's squad (in no particular order) and how they're taking shape:
1) Harker with Heavy Bolter; cream camo only. His arm's right at the top of the shot - his head's elsewhere.
2) Shotgun Vet; camo complete
3) Shotgun Vet with Vox; camo complete
4) Missile Launcher Vet; camo complete. Number 2 above will be his 'loader' - I'll give them an optional 60mm base.
5) Shotgun Vet; camo complete
6) Grenade Launcher Vet; camo complete
7) Heavy Flamer Vet; cream camo only - head elsewhere
8) Melta Gun Vet; cream and brown camo only - head elsewhere
9) Demo Charge/Shotgun Vet; cream camo only - head elsewhere
10) Shotgun Vet; camo complete.

Christ, that's a lot of weaponry!

You'll note all of them have work that still needs to be done, but I'm going to try to get them finished by the end of next week if possible. Painted, if not based/finished.

If you're new to the blog - this is how my camoflage works (but make sure you check out Darkwing's US versions). Also, here's an old W-i-P pic of some of the vets:

- Drax.