Who Are The Scots?

A wonderful piece by Peter Arnott – 100 Days: Who Are The Scots?

“But what guarantee is there that any of that would be better with independence?” is the question No voters ask.

And Yes voters should answer: “WE are the guarantee. YOU are the guarantee. If, WE, the Scottish electorate elected then re-elected a government that did this to our people, then hell mend us. But do you really think we would do that? The point is not WHAT we would choose, but the fact that WE would have the choice. And if it we found that a government wasn’t to our choice any more, we could vote against the cruelty and incompetence and hatred were doing all this to us…and, unlike now, it would make a difference. It would matter what we did and what we chose. The government would actually change. Right now, we can’t do anything except complain about it in the pub. We want to make sure that our opinions count. We want to make sure that YOUR opinions count. Come with us!”

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Thrupenny Bit

thrupenny coinWhen my ex-Mother-in-Law was young, she used to split her pocket money with her best friend; she would give her a “thrupenny bit” every week.

Fast-forward 40-something years later and they’re still best friends, only her friend was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.

While we were leaving the hospital with the youngest, after a “swallowed something she shouldn’t have” incident (don’t worry, she’s fine), the Ex relayed the pocket money story and how she wanted to find a thrupenny bit to give to her mum.

Before we’d reached the hospital exit I had tracked down a couple of suitable coins in the eBay app on my phone, and payed for them using my PayPal account. A handful of taps on my phone and I’ve hopefully done something to help in this rough time. They should be here next week.

I’m not sure why I felt compelled to blog this little anecdote; maybe it was because it’s too long to fit in a throwaway tweet. Or maybe it’s because I thought it was awesome how quickly mobile lets us do little bits of good for others.

Overcast

Overcast by Marco Arment has launched today. (finally, some of you might be saying)

I downloaded it on my way home, and haven’t had a chance to try out any of the more interesting features, such as “Smart Speed” yet. However, with just a quick tap-through I’ve seen a few touches which suggest it’s a very well-crafted app. I’m not convinced about the use of a non-”standard” font for the UI though, but that’s just my preference.

Despite being around on the web when podcasting first came about (waaay before Odeo, for example) I never really got into podcasts in the same way a lot of other people did. I’ve started listening to a couple recently – and I’m always on the look out for more – and as I knew Overcast was “Coming Soon™” I stuck with Apple’s really very mediocre Podcast app. I’ll be interested to see if a better “podcatcher” helps me get into more podcasts over time.

You can read Marco’s write up of the release over on his blog.

JSON Resume

JSON Resume is a new service aimed at developers, which provides an easy and interesting way to keep your Resume/CV up to date. You simply update a JSON file (you might have guessed this) and use the command-line tool to (re)generate in a variety of formats.

If you want, you can also register and publish your resume to their online registry (resume’s are private in the sense you have to give someone the direct link).

I’ve been looking for something like this for a while – a nice, simple, logical way to manage my resume. In the past I’ve utilised LinkedIn (shudder) and StackOverflow Careers and their respective export functions. JSON Resume would allow me to manage this myself, with more control over the output through the use of themes.

It’s still early days, so there’s not many themes available, and the PDF export looks a bit janky, but as it’s all Open Source and built on technology-du-jour NodeJS, I imagine these minor flaws will get fixed soon enough.

Building a Gaming Table: Part 2 – Terrain

It’s been a while since I blogged the first part of this series on building my gaming table, so I wanted to catch up about where I’m at. I’m skipping a couple of steps on the building of the table itself, as it’s not that dissimilar to what was talked about in part one. Essentially all I’ve done to the table itself is add a couple of batons running the length of the board, for more support and to slot into the two notches in the saw horses I’m using as supports. That, and I’ve painted the top surface a slate grey using some household emulsion. The grey isn’t the finished surface – more on that in the future – but it will do for now.

What I want to talk about in this part was a much more interesting: gaming terrain and scenery. Let’s face it: playing on a flat or sparse table would be very, very boring. It would also be no fun as the player with the most effective fire power would win. So terrain is an essential part of the experience in games like Warhammer 40,000. A good terrain setup will make for a better game nearly every time.

Not like this.

Not like this.

With that in mind, I wanted to have enough terrain available to have a variety of layouts, while presenting different challenges and opportunities to players: dense areas inaccessible to vehicles mixed with open areas which would be dangerous for foot soldiers to be caught in; natural objective zones for narrative games; varying heights for interesting line of sight opportunities; different styles of terrain to give “themes” to each area. This was the dream – the question was how to make it so.

My starting point were some Games Workshop kits I had stockpiled. I’d ordered the Tempestus Firebase set at the end of last year, in anticipation of this very project, and I had most of one of the Cities of Death buildings as well (a Basilica I believe) – I’d previously used a couple of the parts for a diorama. These gave me enough to loosely fill about a third of my table.

For the rest of the table I opted to make use of the excellent Battlezones scenery Mantic have spun out of the Deadzone game. This system is seriously amazing1 – expect a few more posts about it – as it is so flexible. To begin with I used the contents of the Deadzone starter box, and one of the Deadzone scenery “booster” packs, as I had these before Battlezones were officially launched. This gave me enough buildings for a small settlement or compound. Utilising some barricades made from the same kit, and I had around about another third of my table covered densely. If I spread things out slightly I could cover the whole table more or less. The best bit is, all these buildings would work well in a game of Deadzone as well – so I was getting more bang for my buck! You can see the results in the picture below. I must have been doing something right, as Mantic featured the work in progress photo on their blog2.

IMG_0973

Since then I’ve added a Landing Pad kit (which was slightly bigger than I envisioned) and a “Fortified Sector” – think bunkers and the like. I’ve built the landing pad already, and will be starting on the bunkers soon. Various work-in-progress shots are available in the gallery below, including the full table before the addition of the landing pad and fortified sector buildings.


  1. Deadzone itself is also amazing. If you’re looking for a fast, fun, sci-fi skirmish game you should seriously check it out. 
  2. As I jokingly noted on Twitter, this just adds a little more pressure to getting the terrain all nice and painted! 

Building a Gaming Table, Part 1

For the longest time, I’ve wanted my own full-size gaming table for playing games of Warhammer 40K, or any of the other games I’ve taken an interest in – Warmachine, Kings of War, Deadzone, Dropzone Commander, etc… but I’ve either a) never had the space, b) never had the time, or c) never quite had that “nudge” from inaction to action. Not having my own car/van to transport the necessary materials was also a big factor!

The release of the new 7th Edition of Warhammer 40,000 (more on this later) finally gave me that nudge, and having my own place has given me the space. This weekend I was feeling super-productive, so time-be-damned I was building my gaming table! My Ex was kind enough to drive me to the local B&Q, and transport my materials back in her large MPV. This is what I picked up initially:

  • 6′x4′ 12mm-thick MDF sheet (comes as 8×4, but the store cut for free. I kept the cut-off)
  • 2x folding saw horses
  • 4x 1800x44x34mm planed-finish wood
  • 2x quick-release clamps (in hindsight, 4 would have made the job a lot easier)

I already had a big box of high-quality wood screws (5x40mm), drill/driver and bits, so didn’t need any of those.

Construction was a blast, and surprisingly quick. Check the gallery below for some in-progress snaps. In all, it took me roughly 2 hours from unloading the materials to having this stage of the board constructed. The basic process was:

  1. Test-fit the supporting frame on the top of the board, and make some rough cuts to make things easier to handle.
  2. Mark out which piece went where. I numbered each piece, and marked which piece it butt up against.
  3. Clamp my first piece (short end) to the underside of the MDF, lining it flush against the edges.
  4. Drill a series of 3mm pilot holes along the length of the side, roughly 14mm in from the edge, and 200mm apart
  5. Countersink the holes. Not entirely necessary, but you want to make sure the screws are driven slightly below the surface, and this helps. My woodworking teacher would be proud.
  6. Screw the MDF surface to the wood frame
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 for the long edge. I found it useful to drill/sink/screw a couple of holes near the starting corner before continuing with the rest of the holes. This let me move the clamps along and keep the longer piece more stable as I worked.
  8. Repeat for the remaining 2 sides.
  9. Trim off any excess. I used an oscillating tool with a general wood blade.
  10. Done! For now.

So what’s next?

Well, I need to do a couple more things to the frame – mainly, I need to add at least 2 crossbeams for more stability. I noticed when moving the board to where it will be stored, that it’s a little flexible off of the saw horses. This shouldn’t be a problem during a game, but I don’t want the stresses of being moved to damage my board. Then I want to add a couple more batons running 90 degrees to each short edge. The saw horses I’m using each have two 40mm wide slots for wood to sit in, so I’m going to utilise these so the frame sits on the saw horse, not the underside of the MDF. Then I’m toying with the idea of adding some planed wood to the outer edges, to both “finish” the board by covering the join between MDF and frame, and give it a raised edge all the way around – hopefully no lost dice!

Finally, I need to fill the screw holes and paint it! Then build the scenery. Then paint the scenery…

More posts to come as the project continues!

Getting Back in the Hobby

Between getting – and moving into – a new place, work, and getting said new place fully set up, I’ve not had a whole lot of time for any of my hobby projects. This past weekend I took some time to organise the last of the cupboards, empty the final boxes, and get myself a new hobby cave set up. It’s nothing fancy, just a cupboard under the stairs which Harry Potter would find cramped, but it’s something at least. I need to find a way to organise my paints better (at the moment the ones I’m not using are stuffed into a couple of carry cases under the desk), but I’ve got a work surface, brushes, tools, my airbrush, and a massive backlog of stuff to paint!

Of course, I still need to do something about time… but I can work on that. And a gaming table. I could do with one of those as well. Especially now Warhammer 40,000 7th Edition is imminent.

Let’s Talk About Warhammer 40,000 7th Edition

The Rumour Mill has been frothing for months about a “revised” version of 40K 6th Edition. In the last couple of days there have been leaks from White Dwarf Weekly confirming it was happening – and it appears to be a whole new edition.

Obviously, this is the Internet, and specifically, this is the online 40K community. Where previously we had people saying we needed a revision/new edition to “fix the imbalance,” “add clarity [about what is/isn't official],” “make the game fun again,” etc, etc, etc… we now have much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The sky is falling! This is the “death” of 40K! It’s a “money grab.” Insert your favourite Games Workshop hate here!

Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up. Ask for a new edition; get a new edition; complain there’s a new edition.

Some cheese with your whine?

Some cheese with your whine?

So what do we know about what’s coming? Two main things:

  1. There’s a “new” psychic phase, just like the magic phase in Warhammer Fantasy.
  2. You now have the option of building your army in one of two ways: “Bound” (which uses the Force Organisation Chart), or “Unbound” which is a free-for-all, take whatever you want affair.

That’s pretty much all of the interesting details we know. If you want my opinion (and you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t) these are awesome changes to 40K. Why?

Psychic Phase

I hate the current implementation of psychic powers in the game. Having to remember to use different powers at different times in different phases is a massive pain in the hoop. Not using psychics right can lose you a game, yet at the moment they’re so fiddly that it’s all too easy to forget them until it’s too late.

I put “new” in quotes above because a dedicated psychic phase is not unheard of in 40K. We had one in 2nd Edition, and while it added an extra phase to the game, it was beautifully straightforward and it worked. I realise that at least half the player base isn’t old enough to have played with a dedicated phase, and so it’s a big, scary change… but trust me on this: the game will have one less potential point of frustration.

The FOC (or lack of it)

For years and years and years, players have been complaining they can’t field certain “fluffy” armies on the table because the force-org restrictions wouldn’t let them (think Space Marine “Reserve Companies” and the like). Guess what? You just got your wish. Got the points for it? By the sounds of things now you can take it in an “Unbound” list. What was the first complaint about this change? That it would be the death of fluffy armies. Seriously.

If you’ve been paying attention to Jervis Johnson’s column in White Dwarf, he’s been telegraphing such a change for months.

The one fair criticism which could be levelled at this change is that it opens the door for all sorts of spam-list abuses. Is that a game issue, or a player issue? Has everyone lost sight of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”?

Not to mention, we haven’t got any details of the “bonuses” given to Bound (FOC-using) lists. These could still turn out to be an equaliser.

If you’re playing amongst your good friends then sure, take that ridiculous list as a one-off, for the lolz. But taking it to your FLGS for a pick-up game? That makes you That Guy. What do we always say? Don’t be That Guy.

As for tournaments, I imagine they’ll be Bound-List-only, perhaps without the bonuses, depending how the chips fall on those. That way no one has to get their knickers in a twist any more than they do nowadays. It’ll be the same 40K the Internet Community have been anticipating the death of for more than a decade.

In a nutshell, I like this change because it brings so much freedom to the game. I can have a load of fun playing more-or-less what I want, without having to tick boxes on an FOC that’s grown to sprawl over an A3 page when printed… if I want to. Or I can have fun playing with a “cohesive” army and reap some in-game benefits for doing so. The choice will be mine to play the game how I want. GW have actually written into the rules what they’ve been trying to tell us for years: have fun, playing the game your way. We won’t know for sure until the rulebook hits the shelves, but as I said on twitter yesterday, 7th Edition sounds like it’s going to be a hoot to play.

Bloodspire Cover Art

Addendum: My Wishlist for 7th Edition

If I can wishlist for a moment, here’s some more changes I’m hoping to see in 7th Edition:

  • Less “Ignores Cover” – at the moment, there are far too many ways to apply IC, which essentially makes cover useless as a game mechanic. No cover makes it harder for assault armies to do their thing. Would need to be an Errata item for existing codexes though.
  • Less low AP – massed AP3/AP2 is too common, and exacerbates the prevalence of Ignores Cover, making anything without an Invuln save far too squishy.
  • No more random charge distance – seriously, I hate this bit of 6th. I need no other justification other than it just feels stupid to play.
  • Special Rules do not affect Allies, unless specifically noted – 80% of shenanigans gone in one fell swoop.
  • Assault from Deep Strike - would make for some epic moments, and would be a significant boost for assault armies. Definitely of benefit if Ignores Cover remains as-is.

I doubt any of these will happen, but a guy can dream, right?

Answering Some Questions on Online Dating

A friend, who writes the blog “Being Female…” recently wrote about her experiences on dating in her 30′s, with a focus on online dating. As part of her write-up, she wanted a male point of view as a counter-balance, so she sent me a dozen questions to answer. I didn’t manage to get my answers written up in time for her publishing the original article, but a promise is a promise, so presented below are the answers I sent through to her, plus a couple of anecdotes, which should be appearing as another blog post on her site in the near future.

These are just the straight answers to her questions. I’ve started writing up a wider PoV post, but it’s taking a while, so keep an eye out for it in the future.

Online Dating. Not for the faint of heart.

Online Dating. Not for the faint of heart.

1. Why did you decide to go with on-line dating as opposed to ‘regular’ dating?

To give me more opportunities to meet someone. By the time I was single and dating again, my social circle had shrunk and were nearly all settled down. Plus you can’t go bar-hopping all the time! Online dating opens up your options by giving you more chance to meet people you might not otherwise.

2. How did you go about choosing your preferred site? Did you do a bit of research, and did cost play a factor?

I’d heard of most of the “major” sites before I started out, so I took a look at those. Over time, I’ve tried out most of them. Trying them out for a few weeks is probably the best “research” you can do. Each site has subtly different cultures and etiquette, so you almost have to “date” the dating sites at first to find the one you’re most comfortable with.

I’ve come to the conclusion that paying for a dating site isn’t really worth it as there’s so much “crossover” of people between the different sites. Plus paying for access to the site puts extra pressure on people to “get their money’s worth” (probably tying into the answers to 3 & 5) There’s an argument to be made that price filters out some of the really bad people (see – creepy/abusive messages) but equally, paying for something gives some people a sense of entitlement, making them just as bad.

3. Were you nervous when you first created your profile?

Not really. It depends on your attitude to things, I guess. If you’re keen to meet “The One” as quickly as possible, then you’ll put yourself under pressure to get your profile right, which is where the nerves come in for some people. I treat it like filling in any social media profile.

Relax, take your time, and learn to evolve your profile over time. Keep track of what changes you’ve made, and refine what’s in your profile based on what works.

4. How quickly was contact established – did you have to wait a while or were there instant messages?

It depends. If you’re the “new guy” then you can get pounced on pretty quickly on some sites, depending how much “choice” there was before you started showing up in search results. It also depends how good your profile and pictures are. I’ve had experiences where I’ve had a message within 30 minutes, and others where I’ve not had any in the first 2 weeks.

In my latest “go” at Online Dating, I created my profile one night while I was in San Francisco for a few days, thinking I was setting things up for when I got home. I woke up to dozens of “X likes you” alerts and several messages. I pretty much face-palmed myself as I was catching my flight later that day and so couldn’t follow up on any of them. Ladies of San Francisco: sorry!

5. One of the ‘myths’ about on-line dating is that the sites are populated by people who are desperate and a bit ‘strange’ – did you chat to anyone who you felt fit this description? Any funny anecdotes? (no names needed)

A couple have fallen in the “strange” category, but they’ve been the minority. It also depends on your definition of strange – I’m sure I’ve probably come across as “strange” to some people! It’s all relative! Sometimes the “strange” ones are the more interesting and fun people you meet.

As for “desperate” – btw, I’m not a fan of that description – I’ve talked to people who could match that stereotype. There’s been a few who place quite a lot of pressure on themselves to “meet someone” and often don’t realise it… and as a result they can come across quite “full on” and be very demanding. I try to give someone the benefit of the doubt though; you don’t know them well enough to know if there’s some external factor causing them to be stressed out.

6. How quickly did you meet any of the people you chatted to?

It depends how the messaging goes, “schedules,” and how open someone is to meeting a stranger off the internet1. Some people I’ve kept talking to online but never met.

For the people I have met: shortest time – a few hours. Longest – 5 months. On average, it is usually around 2-3 weeks.

7. Did the person/people you have met live up to their ‘chat’ i.e were they telling huge whoppers on-line to reel you in, only for you to discover they were nothing like that in real life.

The biggest disparity is usually in how they look in their pictures vs. how they look in real life. I’ve met people in person who barely resemble the person in their profile pictures. Side note:- having nothing but group shots with your friends in your profile is a massive pain2.

“Chat”-wise, often I’ll find someone isn’t quite the same as their online persona, but normally not deal breakingly so… they’ll be quieter, or less out-going, or not quite as into something as they maybe gave the impression they were. Alternatively, they might go all-out to impress, and end up not presenting themselves in the best light. I often put it down to nerves and try not to judge too much on just that initial face-to-face.

Tying into answer 9, some have turned out to be far more shallow than they seemed in their messages, which is always a disappointment.

8. Have you had a relationship with someone you met online (For purposes of the blog, I would probably define a ‘relationship’ as being with someone you have dated exclusively for 4 months or more, but I know these things are dependent on situation and do not follow any prescribed timescale – people develop feelings or fall in love at their own pace)

In those terms (and probably in any other sensible definition) – no. Most have been 2-4 dates, then realise it’s not what one (or both) of us are looking for and fall out of contact. Some have been a few dates, then it develops into a friendship rather than relationship. Others have just been random, almost haphazard… date one or more times, fall out of contact for a while, get back in contact, repeat.

9 Do you think people on-line don’t give dating relationships a chance to work i.e. rather than work at getting to know a person, if the person doesn’t meet the picture in their head from the get go, they move onto the next person quickly. The grass is always greener syndrome – looking for a partner where no work is involved in the longterm.

Absolutely. I’ve had some horrific experiences with this that have nearly put me off the online dating thing entirely. Obviously you need to “click” with someone, and find them (at least moderately) attractive, but there’s been times where I’ve met someone after exchanging messages + photos for a few weeks… and you could see the disappointment written all over their face when we actually met. Which makes you wonder how much attention they were paying in the first place, but never mind. Not surprisingly, those dates didn’t last very long!

By all means, you can know by the end of the first date if someone is or isn’t a match, and some things are decent indicators… but I’d question if you can accurately tell within the first few minutes like some people I’ve met have done. At least give it until the end of the date and any follow-up communication3.

10. How many people do you think it is acceptable to date at any given time?

I wouldn’t say there are any hard-and-fast rules here… it would depend how much effort you were putting into establishing relationships with the people you are dating. If you’re actually trying to build a solid relationship, I don’t see how you could honestly date more than 1-2 people at a time. Maybe 3 at most, if you have the time. But equally, if you’re just starting out, there’s no harm in having a different “first date” each night of the week if you’re able. As time goes by, you’ll naturally find yourself dating less people at once as something becomes more serious.

If you are planning on “dating around” with multiple people, it’s only fair to be upfront about it so there are no misunderstandings!

11. How long would you date someone before removing your profile from a dating site, if ever?

No set rule… whenever you feel “comfortable” in the relationship, I guess. With my last girlfriend (who wasn’t met online) I took it down after about 4-6 weeks, partly because she was away for 2-3 weeks of that time and it wasn’t certain things were taking off.

12. Any other comments or observations you would like to make?

I could probably write a book here, but I’ll keep it to only one aspect:

Online dating can be both a very rewarding experience of meeting interesting new people, some of which you’ll share some good (possibly great) times with… and the most exhausting, dehumanising, soul-crushing experience I’ve come across. One minute you can have your ego inflated and be feeling pretty good about yourself; then you’ll find it burst, torn to shreds, set on fire, then the ashes blasted into the cosmos.

Over the 2-3 years I’ve been using online dating, I’ve rarely been able to keep at it for more than 3-4 months before I need to take a break… by which I mean completely take down all profiles (delete, not just disable), unsubscribe from any email newsletters, and remove any apps from my phone. I’m in the middle of such a break just now.

“Burnout” is a very real thing you have to be careful of. You also should be in the right frame of mind before starting online dating, or you won’t give the best impression of yourself – leading to less “success” when going on, or even in attracting dates – creating a downward spiral.

Never, ever, ever jump straight into online dating on the rebound. Ever. Trust me on this.

So why do online dating at all? Because when you do meet someone you click with (even if it’s only for a short time) the feeling is awesome. When online dating works, you’ll have a lot of fun, and meet some great people along the way. One of whom might be “The One” you’re looking for – which is the whole point really.


  1. Yes, really. Some people do go into Online Dating reluctant to meet anyone they’ve met on the Internet. 
  2. Don’t be that guy/girl. Please. For your own sake. 
  3. Speaking of – if you do a vanishing act (ignoring messages, etc) after spending a couple of weeks getting to know, and then going out on a date with someone – then you suck. It doesn’t cost anything to at least say “hey, sorry, things didn’t ‘click’ for me.” You might not be interested, but there’s no need to be an ass. 

Dead Wrestler of the Week

Deadspin’s great series “Dead Wrestler of the Week” has been around for a while, but I only started reading through them recently. The premise is simple; a look at the colourful lives and legacies – the legends, if you will – of a dead professional wrestler. There’s a whole bunch of them, all very much worth a read, but for me my favourites are the articles on Owen Hart, and Chris Beniot. Both of these guys were among my favourites at the time of their deaths; both their deaths were tragic, in very, very different ways; and both deaths had profound effects on the industry in their aftermaths, something the articles dissect and analyse brilliantly.