The End of the World (of Battle) as We Know It

Off The Top of My Head

As a Warhammer fan living in Tennessee I’ve always been relatively lucky. My orders ship very quickly, shops are usually well-stocked, and there are a lot of hobbyists to create a pretty good community. Part of this is because the Games Workshop North American Headquarters was located in my state; Memphis to be exact.
I live a fair drive from Memphis but not too far. Not so far that it’s excusable that I’d never before visited the Memphis HQ and gaming site “World of Battle” over the last couple of years. I was suddenly motivated to do so when they broke the news on their Facebook page they would be effected by the Games Workshop restructuring (they are centralizing their operations back in Nottingham rather than maintaining multi-employee shops and several international HQs) and would be converting the epic World of Battle gaming hall into a single-person store on the day this post goes out, March 26th 2014. With that news I knew I’d be heading to Memphis before that occurred so I could see the World of Battle while still in its epic-scale format.
A couple of non-Warhammer folks came along for the ride, and even they were impressed and became interested in the hobby just being in the environment.

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The outside of the building itself was impressive, the huge imperial eagle and the wicked space marine statue standing guard.

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The full-sized Blood Angel still stands in the shop and he’s just as intimidating as a 7-foot tall bloke in red armor would be. Especially since he carried a gun the size of my torso.

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There’s a nice case with Eldar Striking Scorpion gear in it. It is stylized to look like it’s been collected and tagged by an Ordo Xenos agent.

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Loved this Ork Waaagh-Bannah!

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This city table was amazing. We kept wandering around it looking at all the details.

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This fantasy castle was equally incredible.

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One of my favorite sections was the back hall that contained “historical artifacts” from Games Workshop’s history. And a GREAT Dark Angels banner.

I’m not a Games Workshop hater. They are a publicly traded company, they are beholden to make a profit for their shareholders, they do things for business reasons certainly, etc. They have also create a GREAT gaming system, painting systems, and as I said in my Kharn post, one of the best “worlds” I’ve seen in fiction. Some of their decisions, however, I can’t see as being positive. I had a ton of fun in the Woodfield Mall store while I was in Chicago. I went two nights in five days and just swapped war stories (“The Little Commissar who Could” one of the clerks told me was terrific) the same was true for World of Battle. I got a chance to chat with Price there about Imperial Knights tactics, the benefits of the new Crimson Slaughter Supplement, and creative use of bits to make unique terrain. He never tried to sell me anything. Just discussed it. I just wanted to BUY everything.

Even my two friends came away interested, just being in the environment and watching the massive Last Stand battle going on.

I think this is the kind of place GW needs to retain. It brings people in. Gets them started. Just being in the presence of this kind of World of Battle sparks fascination in everyone, Warhammer fanatics, neophytes, and outsiders.

I’m hopeful that as Games Workshop completes its restructuring and rebuilds itself as in a modern economic environment World of Battle will rise from the ashes and opens its epic gaming hall tables for North American Hobbyists.

World of Battle’s FB Page!

Off the Top of My Head #7: The Thanksgiving Bird is the Word

Off The Top of My Head

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving.  That usually means family, food, and time off work.  And typically when people say “the bird is great!” they’re referring to a roasted turkey they’re eagerly devouring along with various vegetables, pies, rolls, and sauces.  It’s as often as not a bald-faced lie too as, it turns out, turkey is apparently rather difficult to cook to perfection.  My dad usually has a good-turkey trick, but I’ve heard not everyone has as fool-proof a poultry plan.

This year, however, when I think of the “bird” from my 2012 Thanksgiving, I’ll think of THIS:

Hawk

After our Thanksgiving food-fest, I went to a store for a major caffeine hit, and when I returned this guy was waiting at the house.  He swooped down in most magnificent fashion, then performed daring, aggressive leaps at a small bush at the terrified little birds hiding within (he didn’t get any of those).

He then flew to a nearby powerline (where he imposingly glared down at me) …

Hawk
I took this pic and the above pic with my phone…which is why it’s as grainy as it is. Don’t believe the hype…phones aren’t cameras…

…and then to a pole where he regally surveyed the surrounding terrain for more accessible prey.  He stayed there long enough for me to run inside, grab my a55, and run back outside telephoto lens attached.  I was in such a rush I didn’t have time for the tripod set up.  Fortunately he lingered long enough for hi-drive speed to net me some good pictures!

Hawk HD

Hawk

I was able to get over 150 photos of him perched up there before he locked eyes on something a hundred or so yards away and again dove impressively out of site to either another near miss or on top of a less-fortunate small animal than the birds hiding in the lucky shrub.

I learned a few things from this:

1.) There’s something unique about seeing a natural predator like this in the suburbs.

2.) Birds of prey are fearless and seem naturally pretentious, the whole time he looked at me it was as if he was thinking, “Look at that clumsy mammal down there staggering around me for no reason…”

3.) No matter how old you are if you see such a thing in action the only thing you say is, “Wooooow…”

I think he was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, but can’t say for sure.

Seeing him definitely changed my definition of the Thanksgiving “bird” for a while!

To see more on strange avian holiday visitors see Story of the Month for November written by my lovely RevPub counterpart!

Next week will be a requested Illustrator tutorial, and the following week a return to Life-Lessons from Video Games!

Ghost Story #3: Sounds in the Dark

As I said in my FIRST ghosty-post I’m a cynic who starts from skepticism until I experience something that forces me to accept a different conclusion.  Most of the time I search for other explanations before coming to “it’s ghosts!” or “it’s bigfoot!”  Though I start as a skeptic once unexplainable evidence is presented I am willing to accept the supernatural explanation.

If nothing else just so, in the movie of my own personal ghost story, I’m not the guy everyone hates yelling “It was just the wind!” to the characters you’re supposed to like.

Sounds in the Dark

I work in a creepy building.  Most of it is typical office space, but there are eerie places; “the stacks,” entire floors which consist of rows and rows long dark aisles of books or boxes.  Policy is you turn off the lights when you leave a stack area so I’ve gotten into the habit of only turning on the lights I need so I never accidentally forget and leave lights on.  There are rumors that our second floor, where our manuscript documents are kept, is haunted but I never really believed it.  I couldn’t imagine what ghost would want to spend its ethereal eternity amidst old boxes and books.  I attributed the spooky stories to the fact that the second floor looks the creepiest.  Most of our other stack areas have small castle-turret style windows.  The second floor has none, so it’s just the glow of the exit signs and whatever lights you turn on.

Dark Corridor Stack Two
The main aisle of the second floor with the lights out, how I usually see it.

Over the years I got used to wandering around in the dark up there, counting steps to switches and navigating in the dark.  There used to be one gate I could get into without a key (had to know the trick!) so I would always use that door no matter which end of the floor I was going to.

One afternoon I needed to retrieve something from the second floor so, as usual I went to two, entered the gate I could break into, and started my way down the main corridor in the dark.  I needed to go ALL the way down to the other end, but I didn’t mind the dark and quiet.

I was maybe a third of the way down the corridor when I heard the distinct sound of a box being pulled from a shelf…then replaced.  I stopped to listen, there are many sounds on that floor, machine room sounds, vents, noises from floors above, but none were as easily identifiable (I’ve pulled hundreds of boxes from these metal shelves, I know that sound…) as this…or as close.  I started walking again and heard it again, box sliding off the metal…then sliding back on.  It was coming from the 1st range…the range I was going to.  I heard it at least two more times as I got closer.  I flipped the switch on the 1st range and peered cautiously around the corner.

Nothing there.

I went through the possibilities…  Either another staff member was pulling boxes in the dark, replaced everything, jumped on the ceiling, and skittered away when I arrived…or…it was a ghost.   “Ghost” was actually the most plausible explanation in this case!  And least frightening…

Since then I’ve heard other sounds, including high-heeled shoes trailing along a few feet behind me as I navigated the ranges.  A friend and I also went ghost hunting on the second floor (with my android ghost app once!) and we both heard disembodied shuffling right behind us down a dark corridor we’d just come down. Despite this I never feel unsettled or afraid…more fascinated.

Now I look forward to going to that floor.  You never know what you might find in the strangest places.

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A coworker walked down the corridor after I opened the shutter. Looks like a ghost to me!

Off the Top of My Head #5: Winning Hearts and Minds with Goldie the Black and Yellow Garden Spider

Off The Top of My Head

 I once had a serious brown recluse infestation.  A flat, cardboard glue trap designed to ensure that our cat, Sweetie, had beaten her flea problem, caught one giant brown recluse.  Afterward more traps caught dozens, sometimes HUNDREDS more, of all sizes all over the room.  Needless to say it caused nightmares and paranoia, but, believe it or not, after a while I got used to them.  I’d sit in the floor, playing guitar or drawing, and see one creep by.  I’d smash the life out of it, and then go right back to business as usual.  I have since traded my brown recluse infestation with a cellar spider infestation.  They EAT brown recluses but are harmless to people so I say it’s a fair, natural, “circle of life” kind of trade.

Spiders creep people out.  Often the reasons for this are “they have too many legs,” or “too many eyes,” or “they’re dangerous.”  Mostly I think it’s because they’re an unseen threat, we usually only notice them if something is wrong, like we’re bitten or we see them in an unusual are like a bedroom or kitchen.  I think of it this way: I had hundreds of brown recluses stuck to glue traps.  I only ever saw 20 or so running loose alive.  As far as I know I was never bitten and who knows how many were actually roaming around that I DIDN’T see and weren’t in the traps.  So maybe my infestation was good for me, it got me accustomed to them and taught me a bit about fear.

It gave me a new spider policy: I bring them no harm, no matter how dangerous they may be, so long as they’re outside.  I’ve even released a brown recluse that a friend asked me to identify, she brought him to me in a cup  and I felt if I killed her it would feel like executing a prisoner of war…somehow just wrong…  If they are inside I typically bring them no harm if they are harmless.  Woe to the poor brown recluse that staggers through my defenses into my room now though…dangerous ones in my space I treat like invaders…

But most people hate spiders, even those outside.  During my vacation the first week of August I left my home and came across her:

Yellow and Black Spider

She built her web at the end of our carport and I immediately recognized her as a gold and black, or yellow and black, garden spider.  I knew she was harmless and her web was so impressive I implored everyone in the house to let her be.  Everyone wholeheartedly agreed and, despite the fact that she was initially considered creepy by some, she has grown on us.  She was named “Goldie” and we put up a sign to warn package delivery services to not destroy her web or bring her any harm.

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Goldie the female Yellow and Black Spider.

Every morning we check her web, see if she’s caught any food (it’s usually in tatters from the moths and other insects she’s skewered) and every now and then she’s draining some poor meal (I still feel for the eaten bugs…what a way to go..)

Goldie Snack
That was a WASP. She had quite a meal there…

Goldie has become kind of an outside pet.  We are pleased to see she’s eating well (I’ve tried to offer up some superworms which unfortunately flew straight through her web), we cheered when she built not one but TWO massive egg sacs, but we lament that, despite the safety of her location from birds, she will not likely find a mate in the carport…

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Goldie’s first egg sac
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Goldie’s second egg sac

Goldie the spider changed the hearts and minds of many around here who feared or disliked spiders.  The fear of spiders is largely irrational; as are most fears.  Remember a world without spiders is a world full of cockroaches, moths, and flies!  And I for one am much happier with these lovely little killers out there.

Goldie Side

Goldie Under

Here’s a video of Goldie spinning her web.  Forgive the raw version of it I took it in a rush THIS morning and haven’t had time to edit it yet.  I had never before seen her doing this and was pretty excited to get it on video at all!

Off the Edge #1: Theft and Insurance

Off the Edge

It’s the week of my birthday!  I had an interesting weekend with a great group participating in 48-Hour Films (we had a good time shooting our first film in the rain, post about that coming soon), I was ready for a vacation coming up in a couple weeks, I’m wrapping up principle artwork on my first graphic novel, and I’m looking forward to producing my first publication!
Then I woke up Monday morning to find that this happened:

Sadie Minus Tires
What the…  I thought this kind of thing was reserved for cartoons, Evening at the Improv jokes, and movies from the 80s…

Yeah this is in my driveway.  In the suburbs.  With a motion-sensing security light over it.

This begs a few questions.  First directed toward the criminals who stole both my tires and wheel covers:

  1. Who the hell steals three year old 17″ touring tires, one that’s been plugged twice from a nail?
  2. Why would you steal the factory wheels off a VOLVO?  Yeah they’re nice-looking wheel covers, but they’ll only fit another Volvo S80…
  3. Out of all the houses to target why would you choose the one that required you to get out a ladder, shift the motion sensor, and unscrew the bulbs on the security lights?

and…

4. REALLY?  USED Clay bricks?  Not even worth four cinder blocks?

Of course this whole fiasco led to dealing with insurance companies and garages in order to get the car moved and repaired.  Overall I have to say it’s been a decent experience.  The insurance company was relatively responsive and the garage I’ve been working with has been taking extra care to move the car without damaging it further.  But there are some general questions for them as well:

  1. Why do I have an agent I never talk to and never does anything for me?  When you have a problem you report it to claims…who then deals with you directly.  So what’s that guy for?
  2. I’m not sure I understand the deductible concept.  I pay thousands of dollars every year to insure my car.  I, like most people, rarely require their services.  When I do…I have to pay them…again?  To quote Strong Bad…”What the Sense-Make?”
  3. And finally timing.  I’m not self-important enough to think my problem would be first on the list but it took seven hours to hear back from them, then nearly 24 hours for them to transmit the information to the garage.  By then I’d contacted the garage myself and set everything up.

I’ve come to a few realizations here, I already knew them but I thought I’d share them.

  1. Insurance is reverse gambling…you pay into it hoping you NEVER cash in…then when you do you have to pay more so you don’t have to pay as much to repair or replace whatever is being claimed.  Everyone but the insurance companies is in the wrong business.
  2. Apparently when you call someone and tell them your car has no wheels or tires they are astounded and no one has any idea what should be done about this.
  3. Criminals should spend their time, effort, and ingenuity doing something worthwhile.  The jackasses that stole my tires and wheels probably couldn’t have gotten more than 100 dollars for them all.  Unless they found a remarkable amount of financial incentive in decade-old aftermarket Volvo parts.  All the scouting, work to remove them, making sure the lights didn’t come on…was it worth it?  If you have that skill set, you can make more than that actually working in a garage…

It sure wasn’t worth it to me.  20 minutes of their time for a small amount of money has cost me 2.5 days of work, a $500 dollar deductible, and left my rather nice car on bricks for more than 48 hours.  I’m feeling a little Vincent Vega right now, that it would’ve been worth them doing it if I could’ve caught them doing it…but that probably really wouldn’t have been worth it either.

So instead I’m hoping for karma to swing back around on them.  So I send a vindictive sutra into the cosmos targeted at the dumbasses that stole my tires:

“May you put that tire with the plug in it on your suburban-theft mobile and have it burst into rubber and steel belts while you transport your latest brilliant score of dairy products and frozen juice concentrate.”

It probably won’t make the news so I’ll never know if it worked…but I’ll keep an eye out just in case…