Saturday, 30 November 2013

Medical Update

I went back to the hospital on Thursday for some follow-up x-rays on my wrist and arm. The doctor said everything was healing nicely and no pin is necessary for the moment. However, I’ve got another check-up scheduled for Tuesday after next. If that goes well, I could be out of the cast right around the new year.

In other news, I managed my first bit of miniature painting. I painted a little goblin from The Hobbit. My left hand could basically only function as a vice. I had to position the figure with my right hand, which meant putting down the brush every time I wanted to move the figure.  So it was slow, and my accuracy was not at 100%, but that is why I went with a goblin. I only managed about 30 minutes before my arms began to ache, but it was nice to even do a bit.

I have also learned that it is possible to use a can opener one-handed. Really hard, but possible.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Two More Join The Glaurung

It has been several weeks since the news went out about the Glaurung and the quest for the Nauglamír. Breged and Mandracoth have spent most of their days down in the great archives of Minas Tirith, pouring over maps and the ancient accounts of journeys to the distant lands of Far Harad. There is little enough information, but who knows what scrap might prove valuable.

Then, in the space of two days, two new heroes arrived at the White City, offering their services on the journey. The first was Lady Valetha of Pinnath Gelin. The daughter of minor nobility, Valetha grew up in a world of culture and privilege, but after her betrothed was killed by bandits less than a week before their marriage, she devoted her life to the martial arts. Seven years later, she is undoubtedly the best swordswoman in the kingdom. Although she would never say it, most assume she is still running away from her pain.

Breged initially had reservations about taking a woman on the voyage, because of the potential effect on a ship full of men, but Mandracoth convinced him that Valetha was too great an asset to leave behind.

Breged had no concerns about the next volunteer, Darcaven of Lossarnach. A warrior known for his great courage and his great appetites, Darcaven has fought in many battles against the growing forces of Mordor. Unfortunately, his acceptance into the crew has caused friction between Breged and his cousin Boromir, who was not pleased to lose such a warrior from the defense of the city. In the end, the choice belonged to Darcaven, and he chose to cast his lot with the crew of the Glaurung.


The GW Lord of the Rings line contains many great figures, but very few women. Thankfully, they have done several versions of Eowyn, and I chose one of these for Lady Valetha. Wanting to get her as far away from Eowyn as possible, I gave her jet black hair and purple skirts. Also, following the advice of my first figure painting teacher (whose name is sadly long forgotten), I painted her lips. I never do this with male figures, and it does help make the figure a bit more feminine, which is especially important for fully armoured figures. I’m very happy with the figure.

The figure for Darcaven comes from the Axemen of Lossarnach pack and is thus less detailed. Although I like the figure and the simple paint job I gave it, I think the less detail meant he didn’t come with as much back story. We’ll see if we learn more about him during the campaign.

Both of these figures were painted before I broke my arm and wrist. Unfortunately, I haven’t touched a paint brush since. I am starting to get movement back to my fingers however and I’m hopeful it won’t be too long.

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Genetic General by Gordon R. Dickson

I admit it. Every so often I buy a book because of its cover. Such is the case with The Genetic General, which I picked up at a charity shop and tossed on my to-be-read pile. And there it might have lingered indefinitely had I not broken my arm. All of a sudden, I found myself in need of a soft, beat up, and very light book to entertain me in hospital waiting rooms and on bus trips. For that, it was a great success.

I’m not saying it is a great book. It belongs to an earlier age of science-fiction that in places seems a tad naive today. Still, it told a fast paced, galaxy wide, genetic superman story, and wrapped it all up in 160 pages.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Day After the Doctor!

It was a packed house in the cinema last night, in fact there were people sitting in the aisles. We had all paid a premium so that we could watch a television show (airing at the same time) in the theatre. Sure it was cool to see Doctor Who on the big screen and in 3D, but I think most people had come because they wanted to be part of the event, and to be surrounded by others who loved the Doctor as much as they did. There were a few long scarves and lots of fezzes in the audience.

As for the episode, I’m sure there will be those that complain. People will point out the plot holes and the numerous paradoxical illogicalities. Some, I’m sure will be disappointed that the show rewrote the darkest moment of the Doctor’s past. (Although wrote it, might be more accurate) Others will argue that Tom Baker's appearance at the end made no sense at all. To all of them, I would say, ‘You’ve missed the point.’

The Day of the Doctor was a celebration and a reaffirmation of 50 years of adventures in time and space. It stated clearly, that even in the Doctor’s weakest moment, at his lowest ebb in his 11 (12? 13?) regenerations, he will never completely lose hope. He will never sacrifice the innocent for the greater good. In an entertainment industry filled with dark and violent anti-heroes, the Doctor still shines bright, the rasping wheeze of his Tardis bringing hope to the desperate.

For that reason, above all else, I loved The Day of the Doctor!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Catalog of Injuries

Or so my poor blog threatens to become. I had planned to write a blog today about having my first driving lesson this weekend. Instead, while cycling to work this morning, I hit a bump and came off my bike. I knew pretty much immediately that I had hurt my left arm badly. Luckily, I had only made it about 100 yards, so I pushed the bike back home. My wife hadn't left for work yet, so instead she took me to the hospital. (Well, actually there was a 20 minute delay until the painkillers kicked in as I was in too much pain, shock, sickness to move immediately).

To make a long story short, I have broken both my left wrist and arm. The injury was also compacted, so there was a rather unpleasant bit where they had to pull my arm back into place. I've now got a half cast on, and have to go back to the hospital tomorrow to get a full cast.

So that's done in the driving lessons for awhile and the cycling for that matter. Typing with one hand is no joy, but I might get my fingers back sooner. Hopefully that will also mean I will be able to paint miniatures again before too long.

It's all rather annoying, but I have to say a big thanks to the NHS and the staff at the John Radcliffe Hospital for getting me patched up.

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Night of the Doctor

If you are a hard core Doctor Who fan (like me), then the BBC has just released the coolest six minutes of Doctor Who video in the last decade.

The following clip contains a bit of spoiler if you haven't seen the end of the last season of Doctor Who, although I wonder if anyone who hasn't seen that episode, will fully understand what they are witnessing.

If you haven't watched it, stop reading and watch it, because here come some spoilers for it.

Paul McGann is back, with a tremendous opening line. Although Paul McGann has made only one previous appearance as the Doctor, he has become a fan favourite in the Doctor Who audio adventures. It is really wonderful to see him again, if only briefly, at the end.

This little mini-episodes is really a prologue for the upcoming 50th anniversary special, Day of the Doctor, but it contains many talking points.

For example, we now know that Paul McGann did not regenerate into Christopher Eccleston.

More interesting for me, this is the first time that a BBC produced Doctor Who story has referenced the audio adventures. Some of the companions that the Doctor names only appeared in the audio adventures. Previously, there has been a very strict disconnect between the audio adventures and the television show.

Now, in truth, I don't think this mini-episode fully succeeded in accomplishing what is one of the biggest and most important transitions in Doctor Who history, but considering they only had six minutes, they did pretty well. Chances are, it was this or nothing.

Anyway, it's extremely exciting for a Whovian like me and has once again gotten me anxiously waiting for November 23 - The Day of the Doctor

Thursday, 14 November 2013

The Voyage of the Glaurung

The years is 3013 of the Third Age of Middle Earth. Denethor sits alone in his tower, gazing into the Palantír, when he sees a vision of a lost treasure. The Nauglamír, the necklace of Dwarves, hung on the branch of a dying tree, across an ocean in Far Harad. More than two thousand years ago, the Nauglamír had been one the great treasures of Gondor, until it vanished during the war of the Third Kin-strife. If Gondor could recover this treasure, it would prove a potent talisman in the coming war.

But who to send? A voyage that long had never been attempted by any in Gondor. It would take years and more than likely prove a suicide mission...

Then a name came unbidden to his mind - Breged, his nephew by marriage, the son Ivriniel of Dol Amroth. As a boy, Breged had been sent to Minas Tirith, after the death of his father. He had trained side-by-side with Boromir and Faramir, and Denethor had eventually made him a Knight of the Tower to satisfy politics. But Breged was a grim, unhappy man; the dark shadow of Boromir. The city, nay the country, would be better off without him.

Denethor would give him this mission, to travel to the far corner of Middle-Earth to recover the Nauglamír. He would give him a ship and let him hand-pick a crew. In the unlikely event that Breged succeeded, Gondor would have gained a valuable treasure. If he failed, Gondor would have lost little of value...

A Gathering of Heroes

For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about running a solo Lord of the Rings campaign, but was unsure how to construct it. Then a month or so ago, it occurred to me that I could combine it with one of my other great loves, the story of Jason and the Argonauts. Eventually, the above story was born.

I’ve got my main hero, Breged. I actually based his name on Rheged, the ancient British kingdom. By fortuitous coincidence ‘breged’ is also the word for ‘violence’ in one of Tolkien’s elf languages. At the same time I was working on this story, I bought a figure of Boromir in his full Gondorian armour. I thought I would paint him with dark hair, as this is more appropriate for a son of Gondor. As it turned out, when I had finished the figure, I no longer saw Boromir; instead, I saw another man, a grim hero. I found Breged.

The first hero to join Breged on his quest is the old sage, Mandracoth. Both Breged and Denethor were surprised when Mandracoth volunteered for the expedition. For years, Mandracoth has served the Stewards as an adviser, but recently he has grown distant from Denethor. Is he seeking escape from the confining walls of Minas Tirith, or does he have some other, deeper purpose?

As Breged begins his search for other heroes to join his quest, the great shipwrights of Dol Amroth have laid the keel for his ship. When it is near completion, it will be fitted with a dragon’s head, carved by mystic craftsman hired by Breged’s mother. For this reason, Breged will name the ship Glaurung, after the most terrifying dragon of myth.

While Jason’s crew was made up completely of heroes, I thought this would probably prove too much paperwork for my campaign. Instead, the Glaurung will have a crew of thirty. Ten of these will be heroes, the other twenty will be volunteers from the soldiery of Minas Tirith. I’ve just finished painting the first six of these. The first three are tower guardsmen, which I really enjoyed painting. They are in every way superior to the plastic Gondorian soldiers. First, they are actually in scale with most of the rest of the range and the cloaks just give them that extra bit of coolness! I’ve also painted up three Veterans of Osgiliath. Again these metal figures are far superior to their plastic counterparts.

So, the story begins. I still need eight heroes, fourteen soldiers, and a ship, but I’m on my way. 

Monday, 11 November 2013


I’ve been painting a lot of Lord of the Rings miniatures lately, but I think the ones I have enjoyed the most are these Half-Trolls. Both of these miniatures have loads of finely sculpted detail that was easy to pick out or dry brush. In fact, I enjoyed them so much, I’m considering getting another pair before the supply of metals dries up (all GW Lord of the Rings miniatures are a bit endangered at the moment, especially in metal).

My only disappointment with the figures is that they seem a little small. In stature, they are only just a bit taller than a man. True, they are much broader and dangerously muscular, but still a tad small. Trolls, especially as depicted in the movies, are massive creatures. At best, these two guys seem like Quarter-Trolls.

Games Workshop included these guys as part of their Far Harad range of figures. This range is only semi-based on Tolkien, as I don’t believe Tolkien said much at all about Far Harad beyond the name. He did, however, mention Half-Trolls. I believe they come up during the battle of Helm’s Deep. Also, for some reason I always thought that Gothmog, leader of the forces of Mordor after the fall of the Witch King, was a Half-Troll, although I might be remembering that from The Middle-Earth Role-Playing Game.

At any rate, they are certainly part of Middle-Earth and great figures to boot.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Big Brother???

Today I went to the library to return a couple of books, which I’d checked out two weeks ago. Recently, our library installed self-checkout machines, where you can checkout, return, or renew books yourself. So, I walked straight up to one machine and hit the ‘return’ button. A second later, my two books appeared on the screen.

It took me a second before I realized something was wrong. I hadn’t scanned my library card. I hadn’t even taken my wallet out of my pocket. Moreover, I had not taken the two books out of my bag...

I looked around in the way you do when something isn’t right, as though you expect to see your friends hiding by the corner of a bookshelf laughing and pointing. There was nothing.

I can only assume that, somehow, the scanner managed to pick up my two books through the bag. It’s a weak answer, but it’s the only one I’ve got...unless the machine is reading fingerprints...

Sunday, 3 November 2013


About to throw out the Halloween pumpkin? Well, hold on a minute. Before you do, take a look at the stem. Does it, perhaps, look like a stump? A 28mm stump? 

Last year, I saved all of the stems from my Halloween pumpkins (and was given  a couple more). I dried them out by leaving them on top of the radiator for a couple of weeks, and then I promptly forgot about them for most of a year. Then, a few weeks ago, when large numbers of pumpkins started to appear in the stores again, I remembered them. So, I pulled out those old stems, mounted them on bases, used plaster to fill in any gaps between stem and base, then painted them up.

Here are the results. A quartet of pretty convincing looking stumps. At least in my opinion.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

The Day of the Doctor is Coming!

And I’ve got tickets!
On November 23, Doctor Who is returning to television with tth anniversary special, Day of the Doctor. This will also mark the first multi-Doctor episode of the new era, as both Matt Smith, David Tennant, and ???? will be appearing.
he big, 50

What I only recently discovered is that at the same time the show is airing on television, it will also be playing in selected 3-D movie theatres around the country. I actually found out about this the day after the tickets went on sale. Well, I really lucked out. I checked my local theatre and they actually still had a few tickets left. I got two seats near the middle of the back row.

Maybe it is silly, paying money for something that is going to be free on television, but I’ve been a Doctor Who fan my whole life, and I’ve never gotten the chance to see the Doctor on the big screen. I’m glad I’ve got the chance now. I will also be recording the episode, as I have a feeling it could be a huge, complicated, time-travel, super-self-referential muddle that might need multiple viewings to actually understand.

Friday, 1 November 2013

The Halloween Report

It was a great night for business last night. The combination of a great location, good weather, and our dual jack o' lantern advertising campaign netted us a total of 71 trick-or-treaters! We nearly emptied the candy bowl. Our first visitors came by about 5:15 and we stayed busy from then until about 7:00. From there the goblins and witches came in drips and drabs with our final little visitor knocking on the door at 8:30.

The kids in our area seem to favour the classical, ghoulish costumes with various zombies and witches appearing the most popular. There were also a sprinkling of superheroes and fairies.

While trick-or-treating is certainly less popular in Britain than the USA, it is definitely strong in our neighbourhood.