I'm a physicist by profession and a witch by belief. My job is administering computer systems, but I read Tarot cards at renaissance festivals. At the heart of this intersection of science and spirit is me: rune carver, cook, teacher, student, amateur astronomer, and cat lover. The central philosophy of my life? "I can't sing. I can't dance. I can't act. But I never let that stop me!"
Here are the key phrases for searches and the like: I'm a Wiccan poly pagan gamer (RPG, WoW, LARP) and a(n) SF, science, and computer geek.
That's more than fifty years of life experience condensed into a single string of adjectives and nouns. Ain't language wonderful?
In my prior miniature-painting post, I said that my collection of contrast paints lacked lighter blues and purples. The last three paints listed above certainly satisfy that need. However, see my discussion of contrast medium below.
I didn’t expect much of an effect of Apothecary White over the gray zenithal. While the effect isn’t extraordinary, it is there. There are some spectral miniatures in both Tainted Grail and Etherfields, so I think I’ll find it useful.
The golden Dwarf
In that last post, I presented a Dwarf that I painted with a “silver zenithal.” I talked about doing this same thing with golden metallics. Here’s the result, using a base of Vallejo Tinny Tin, a 45° spray of Vallejo Bright Bronze, and a 0° spray of Vallejo Polished Gold:
Here’s the silver Dwarf from that last post:
In the photos these two show about the same amount of contrast, but in person the golden Dwarf looks almost too reflective. I felt a need to tone it down. So I experimented with contrast medium.
In painting, a “medium” is a color-neutral fluid you add to paint to change its characteristics in some way. Any acrylic paint can be thinned by adding water, but that might change the paint’s qualities: drying time, glossy vs. matte, viscosity, etc. For example, I frequently use both an airbrush thinner and a flow improver to help get my thick or metallic paints to spray smoothly through my airbrush. (For more on this topic, here are short and long explanations.)
That leads us to contrast medium. Mixing this with contrast paint will reduce the intensity of the color (since the pigment fragments will be farther apart) while leaving the flow characteristics unchanged. Here’s a video explanation of how it works.
As I looked at the golden Dwarf, I thought I’d try to use contrast medium to thin the color of one of my green contrast paints. I knew from the video that mixing medium and paint 1:1 would result in something like a wash or a glaze. My goal was to let the mixture flow over the gold and into the mini’s cracks and crevices, to give the effect of verdigris.
I chose to mix the medium with Creed Camo. Here’s the picture from my previous mini post of how that looks undiluted:
I mixed that shade with contrast medium in equal proportion, and brushed it over the golden Dwarf. I left the Dwarf’s barrel untouched so I could see the effect.
It wasn’t the result I expected, but I like what I got. It “aged” the gold in a way that made it look old copper or bronze. I might have achieved a similar effect with a green wash, but the green washes I’ve got have a brighter tone that I don’t think would have looked the same.
I could also use contrast medium to “lighten up” the very dark contrast paints I showed in my previous post. This is Leviadon Blue on the left and Shyish Purple on the right.
Mixing paint to medium in a 4:1 ratio would lighten these shades. I might test this effect eventually.
Now I’ve got a new technique in my “sloppy painting” toolbox. I’m now curious how it would look if I took the silver zenithal I show above and use a thinned contrast paint over that. If I used red, might it look rusty? If I used blue or purple, would it look like a magic aura?
I invite my friends (new and old, near and far) to my 60th birthday party.
Date: Saturday, December 7, 2019
Time: 6PM – 11PM
Location: This is a public blog post, so I’ll send the address separately. It’s the same place as my 40th and 50th birthday parties, and a few Yule celebrations.
The event: A professionally-published murder mystery, set during a masquerade ball.
If you’d like to come, please respond by Tuesday November 5 (Election Day!) with the information below. You can reach me via email, send me a message via Facebook, or text/call; my contact information hasn’t changed in 20 years. (I advise against replying directly to this WordPress blog post, as it’s visible to the public.)
Guests are welcome, especially those friends who did not see this invitation either via Facebook or email.
For each person who’s coming, I’d like to know the following information.
Your postal address, so I can send you game materials in advance.
An email address so your fellow players can contact you in-character before the party. If you only want to be contacted some other way, tell me; bear in mind that some of the other guests don’t use Facebook.
Your level of commitment to the mystery:
Category 1: “The show must go on! Neither daemons pouring from the gates of hell nor hosts of angels with flaming swords shall bar my way to Ravenwood Castle!”
People in Category 1 will receive key roles. One of them may be a tragic victim. One of them may be a foul murderer.
Category A: “Stuff happens. I plan to be there, but I can’t make a firm commitment.”
If you choose Category A, you’ll be in a role that offers clues to solving the mystery. You’ll be missed if you’re not there, but the other guests can forge on.
Category Alpha: “It’s hard for me to commit in advance. I might not even know if I can make it until a few hours before the party, or I could be late.”
Those in Category Alpha will have auxiliary characters. If you can make it, you’ll be able to participate and provide more clues. Who knows? Your character might even be innocent of any wrong-doing.
The characters have color-based names (e.g., Finn Burgundy, Reese Cerulean). The game suggests people wear costumes and masks of that color to identify themselves. Let me know if you’d like me to help out with your mask.
(You don’t have to come in costume, or even wear a mask. I’ll have name tags for everyone.)
We’ll coordinate food (it will be semi-potluck) and rides (e.g., more than one person may be coming from Philly) as we get closer to the date of the party.
Remember: NO PRESENTS! My response to any presents will be Shakespearean.
As I promised in an earlier post, here’s a set of photos of my test work on painting Dwarf Brewers. I ordered about twenty of these miniatures via Amazon, and I believe those orders had to be distributed among several different game stores. If those stores wondered what one person wanted with all those Dwarves, this post will show you.
I should acknowledge that there are better comparisons between the different colors of Citadel Contrast Paints; here’s my favorite. But I felt I needed to see the results in real life, painted in the way I’ll apply the colors to my own miniatures.
As a reminder, these are base zenithal primes over which I applied the contrast paints. (Also: The next planet I create for a science-fiction setting will be named “Zenithal Prime”.)
On the left is tan zenithal, on the right is gray zenithal.
First, the autumnal colors that I painted over tan zenithal.
I’ve got reds, browns, and green a-plenty. However, I should consider getting a light blue and a light purple. Leviadon Blue and Shyish Purple are so dark that they’re almost black. It makes them hard to distinguish from each other.
Contrast paints are meant to be “slopped on” over a white primer. All of the above show the effect of applying contrast paint over zenithal priming. It was only after I took the photographs that I noticed that the paint did not get into all the nooks and crannies of the miniatures; the region under the cap of the Dwarf’s ale mug was particularly problematic. This is a result of my sloppy painting, but it also indicates which paint colors did not flow as smoothly and will requires more attention on future models.
The Metal Dwarf (aka metal zenithal)
All of the above tests and the ones described in my other miniatures posts are fine for applying sundrop to player pieces, miniatures of living creatures, or monsters. But what if I wanted to paint a figure to suggest metal armor?
I was inspired by this video to consider “metallic zenithal”. All the paints were applied with an airbrush. Although the Vallejo metal paints were supposed to be able to be directly applied with airbrush, I found I had to mix an equal amount of flow improver to keep the airbrush from clogging.
Finally a coat of Vallejo Plate Silver sprayed from directly above.
Here’s a comparison between gray zenithal on the left with the silver metallic zenithal on the right.
In the Vince Venturella video I linked above, he continues to refine the metal zenithal with additional shading and highlights. For my part, I’m content to stick with what I’ve got.
I may experiment with a gold metallic zenithal in the future, if I get a miniature for which gold metal looks appropriate.
My miniatures painting tools are packed away in a couple of boxes, waiting for me to make room in a closet somewhere to store them. The next time I anticipate painting minis is when Tainted Grail arrives.
For my 20th, 30th, 40th, and 50th birthday parties, I organized events centered on gaming. As you’ll see if you click on the links in the first sentence, for my 40th and 50th I set up a LARP party. For my 60th birthday party, I’m going to take a simpler approach and host a murder mystery.
This is not an invitation to that party, at least not yet. This is to get a general idea of how many of my friends would like to come.
All I know right now is the date of the party: Saturday, December 7, 2019; the place is somewhere in the Rockland County/Bergen Country area. The exact location, the setting of the mystery, and other details depend on how many are coming. I’m leaning towards a masquerade party, but we’ll see.
If you’d like to come to my 60th birthday party, please let me know.
Please let me know before mid-October.
You can reach me via Facebook, or send me e-mail, or text me, or call. None of my contact information has changed in the past 20 years.
If you reply to this WordPress blog post, please leave your name. Otherwise the only thing I’ll see is the IP address, which won’t be enough for me to know who you are.
Guests are fine, but please let me know how many would be coming with you. The total number of people affects the location of the party and possibly the mystery’s setting as well.
I’m not asking for a commitment to attend, just general interest. I will ask for a commitment when I start assigning roles for the mystery.
Unlike the adventures of my last three birthday parties, which I wrote, the mystery will come from a professional publisher. Even I won’t know whodunnit.
I was a dick about this at my 40th. I was a total dick about this at my 50th. I’m prepared to go completely Richard III at my 60th.
I don’t want stuff. I have enough stuff. Friends and laughter and back rubs are what are important to me at this point in my life.
One more time:
I first met Geela Naiman in the early 1980s. There was an SF fan gathering at my house. Sherry Nehmer, an editor at Analog, was the featured speaker. Near the end of Nehmer’s talk, a friend of hers arrived to drive her home. That friend was Geela, though I didn’t hear her name at the time.
After he rose to fan prominence, I joked about Geela’s name: We had to keep Geela Naiman from ever meeting her anti-matter duplicate, Neil Gaiman. According to a Star Trek episode, if they ever met the universe would be destroyed. Since the universe still exists, I guess we dodged a bullet.
A few years later, in 1987, I was working on my thesis experiment at Fermilab near Chicago. One of my fellow grad students was Walter. After I moved to Nyack to perform the data analysis of my experiments, I met more of Walter’s friends and became a part of that circle: Geela, John, Deborah, and Jon. Typically we played D&D together and visited Ren Faires.
John and Geela got married. They held two wedding ceremonies, one for their family and friends in the NY/NJ area, and another for those in the Chicago area. I was one of the few who attended both ceremonies.
As an outgrowth of our D&D games, I suggested that we join a LARP. Here we are:
Geela played a Halfling Rogue, Periwinkle Pipe. For her role, Geela wore a gray hooded cloak and sneakers that she covered with fur. The fun thing about adventuring with Geela is that she didn’t need any special “rogue skills” for the game. When she walked through the woods dressed in her costume, you really couldn’t see her, even when she was part of our party and we knew where she was!
After a few years, the Bronze Rose group faded and they stopped coming to LAIRE.
Geela entered a more difficult time in her life. She’d had bouts of mental illness before, and they finally reached a point where she had to go on full disability. She occasionally stayed in hospitals during that time. John stood by her and did what he could.
Eventually Geela and John got divorced. It was not only mutual, it was better for both of them. In the years afterward, they’d describe themselves as “happily divorced” and say they were a much better couple now than they had been when they were married.
I hosted my 40th birthday party in 1999. It was a LARP party. Geela came dressed as her character from LAIRE, but in a more colorful outfit suitable for celebration. Here she is, dancing during a Bardic Circle we held:
A couple of weeks after that party, Geela invited me over to her place. John was there, but he left early and I was a bit surprised. Later, I achieved understanding when Geela made a pass at me. I joyfully intercepted.
We dated for a year or so. During that time she attended some Wiccan events with me. She liked the people and the mood, but there were elements of the rituals that bothered her; for example, everyone saluting the Quarters in unison. I accepted that Wicca was not for her. It surprised me in 2002 when she attended Free Spirit Gathering, but in short rations: she stayed with Sherry Nehmer (who lived nearby) overnight, and only attended the bonfire once. For her, the wild moment of the event was when Vann painted a few simple vines her arm.
She was the one who ended our relationship. She was growing closer to her family and community, and they were Orthodox Jews. They’d never accept her dating a Wiccan. Even if I’d been willing (and I was not) to pretend to be Orthodox in their presence, for years she’d told them stories about her friend Bill the Wiccan. A switch on my part would simply not be believable.
We remained friends, though.
With her LARP experience, I thought Geela would enjoy attending Mystic Realms. She attended an event and enjoyed it, though not enough to come back. What I remember most about her visit is her leaving early and getting into difficulty. She was in the parking lot and getting her car out, when she suddenly felt weak and disoriented. I went to her, and we raided the kitchen to get her something to eat. Presently she felt better and was able to drive home.
At a later visit to my place, she commented that what she experienced at MR was one of the symptoms of her mental illness. She said it most often occurred when she was in a supermarket. She’d be a food aisle and trying to make choices, and then gray out or feel disassociated.
I commented, “To a diabetic everything seems like diabetes, but what happened at MR and at the supermarket sounds an awful lot like low blood sugar. May I use my kit to measure it?” She consented, and I got a reading of 50. For comparison, 80 is normal for most people who haven’t eaten, and we had eaten a little while before. I strongly advised her to see a doctor.
She did. The doctor took her blood sugar, saw the reading, then immediately walked out of the office. He came back with a muffin and told her “Eat this now!” She was diagnosed with hypoglycemia and was given medication for it.
I was glad I was able to help her, but I was also furious. Geela had real mental problems, and I don’t mean to diminish them. But she was also being treated as if her physical problem of low blood sugar was a psychological disorder. She was in a hospital and being treated by doctors. Why didn’t they recognize the symptoms when Geela described them? Were they so focused on mental illness that they couldn’t recognize the obvious?
Let’s shift the focus back to Geela and her love of Judaism.
I’d invite Geela every year to my Passover seder. She came to my first one in 1994, but since then she attended the one given by her family. For some reason, she was available just once in the early 2000s. She came, and my seders forever changed.
My seders are based on the practices of my family that I learned in the 60s. Geela brought ideas with her that I’d never learned: Miriam’s Cup (an acknowledgement of women in Judaism), the orange on the seder tray (an acknowledgement of gays and lesbians in Judaism). But what made the greatest impression is what we later called the “Rocky Horror Plagues.” My family had solemnly listed the ten plagues and left it at that. Geela brought with her a “ten plagues kit” with props for us to play with and scripts for us to read.
Since then, I’ve had my own kit that I bring to each Passover. For a while the hosts of my seders could look forward to cleaning up plastic locusts for a few days after each ceremony. I’ve since graduated to ten-plagues finger puppets. None of that would have happened without Geela.
Going into the 2010s, I saw Geela less frequently. We’d make plans to visit, but most of the time she had to cancel due to illness, mental or physical. I got the impression that life was getting harder for her. The last time I saw her was when she and John paid me a visit during my medical convalescence.
Last Sunday, John wrote me to let me know that Geela passed away on the evening of Saturday, September 14, 2019. She will be buried in Israel on Tuesday, September 17.
So it goes.
One of my students learned a few years ago that they were technically Jewish through matrilineal descent, even though none of their family in that line practiced Judaism. That student had become more interested in their Jewish heritage.
On the night Geela passed away, there was a Wiccan gathering at my place. The discussion had turned to hamsas. I had a hamsa sitting on a cabinet. It had been a gift from my mother. It was pretty, with a ying-yang symbol in the palm and several pieces of colored glass around the base of the palm. It had a Hebrew inscription, which I did not know how to read. On the back was printed “Made in Israel.”
I picked it up. I told the student, “I’ve had this for years, and I’ve never used it or carried it. If you’d like to have it, to connect you with Judaism or for any other reason, please take it.” They did.
I think Geela would have been pleased. I am saddened that my student will never get a chance to meet Geela and share their heritage with each other.
With a title like that, you may think this post will be fanfic. Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s another one of my miniature-figure painting posts. It’s long, as usual, but this time its length is due to lots of pictures. Yay, pictures!
In my first post on painting minis, I described how I looked forward to painting the large dragon sculpture that would come with the game Volfyirion. I received the game and started to think about how I’d paint the mini.
I’m going to describe the process, not in the order I did things, but in the order that I feel is the least to the most interesting.
Edge of Darkness
This game has 42 minis. 40 of them are “armies” (sets of identical units), 10 per player. I decided it would be simplest to paint those in the game’s player colors: white, red, green, purple.
Vindication looks like a good game, though I haven’t played it yet. From a miniatures perspective, the game is disappointing in that the minis don’t really do anything. Only if you use an optional expansion module do they show up on the board.
From the design perspective, the minis look great:
As I discussed in my previous miniatures post, over the next year or so I anticipate using the Sundrop/pre-shading/sketch-style technique on the otherworldly minis of Etherfields and Tainted Grail. I chose to make the Vindication minis a test run of this approach. I painted them using the Sundrop technique with contrast paints, each mini with one bit (sometimes tiny) that was different from their main color.
I think the results came out fairly well:
I’m going to skip my usual practice of listing all the paints I used for these pictures. Instead, in a subsequent post I’m going to show Dwarf Brewers painted and labeled with all the Citadel Contrast Paints in my collection. I’ll only note there that I wish that Leviadon Blue (the mini with the yellow globe in the center) and Shyish Purple (circle with jagged spikes and silvery woman in the back) were not so dark that it’s hard to tell one color from the other.
I’m generally content with how these minis turned out. For comparison, Awaken Realms released a photo of the production line for Niamh, one of their Sundropped minis from Tainted Grail:
Awaken Realms has my respect for doing this good a job of mass-painting minis. However, I think I can do as well if not a little bit better on my own. For example, I can select the color of the contrast paint to better suit the miniature’s function or history in the game.
This mini proved to be a challenge. As you can see from the photo, it had lots of “fiddly bits” and sections of the sculpture that were hard to reach with a paint brush:
Most of the other pictures I’ve seen of the Volfyirion miniature painted by other artists used a dark color palette to match the game’s artwork. I decided I wanted a fire dragon. That meant I’d be using mostly warm colors. So the first step was relatively easy: use an airbrush to apply a tan zenithal.
It was tricky getting around the nooks and crannies of the mini. Fortunately the brushes I had were good enough for the task, especially the smallest ones.
It looked pretty decent. However, I thought the contrast between the red top and the brown underbelly was too stark. I took a risk and lightened the underbelly with a drybrush of gold. The result was better than I hoped. Here’s how it looked after varnishing.
Speaking of varnishing…
The web reviews I saw on Citadel Contrast Paints said they did not adhere very well. My own experience confirm that statement. Even the mildest mini-on-plastic rubbing could cause the contrast paint to chip.
The sites recommended 3-4 coats of varnish. That sounded good, but I also found contradictory information on the web about how long I should each coat dry; a web search on the question tends to give links to varnishing boats. My spray can for Liquitex Satin Varnish either did not include drying time or the text was too small for me to find.
I compromised: One quick spray, rotate 90°, spray again; repeat two more times for 360° coverage. A half hour later, do the same thing but starting with a 45° offset so I was spraying on the diagonals. Repeat the whole process the next day.
So far, no chipping. We’ll see what happens.
I’ve got a couple more miniature-painting posts in my mental queue, discussing some more tests I did.
Physically, I’m wrapping up painting for now and putting the airbrush and paints away. I anticipate I might paint more minis in October 2019, when Tainted Grail is tentatively scheduled to arrive.
According to my father, this was known as the “scholars edition” because it was the last edition that could be used as a primary resource. For example, the article on penicillin was written by Alexander Fleming; the article on Communism was written by Leon Trotsky.
The taker would have to pay the postage if they wanted it shipped to them. That would be substantial since technically the 11th edition had 33 volumes, though I don’t know if my father has all the supplements. If a library wanted it, my father would consider paying for the shipping.
The volumes are not bound uniformly. My father assembled the collection over the course of years, and the books come from at least two different printings.