Work related posts have been moved.

9 November, 2010

My work and computing related posts are now at

If you have come here from a work-related perspective (computing, semweb, bioinformatics, math). Perhaps you could go there right now and not read the gory personal stuff here.

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Out with the old, in with the new!

5 March, 2015

I am so fickle.

Still painting this Dwarven Forge terrain, but I have been inspired by the Make, Hack, Void Arduino workshop. I intend, finally, to deal with the vexing question of my bedroom window blinds.

I’ll program up the Arduino to open them once it gets light – or maybe just on a timer.

Now, in order to do this I need to hook a motor onto the twisty rod thingo. Obviously, there are several options, and all of them involve cobbling together some sort of actual real-world mechanical device.

So I just got on Gumtree and bought a dusty, rusty, but mercifully spider-free old metal toolbox half-full of mechano.

Remember that stuff? God, what a time-warp. None of your flimsy bits of plastic here, or moulded pieces good for making one and only one model – No sir! I’m talking gears, pulleys, shafts, plates, straps, and tiny goddamn annoying actual nuts and bolts. It’s like going back to the days when boys were boys and men were racist and measured their penises in inches, the way God intended. Back to the days when your could buy your kid a chemistry set with shit in it that definitely could kill him. (Leave him alone, Ethyl: he’s got to learn).

Most importantly of all, I have a worm and gear. The Ardunino comes with a tiny 5V servo motor, which is great, but it’s not likely to want to drive the twisty blind thingo. A gear train that reduces by, well, a lot is just the ticket. And this lump of mechanno, although plastic, has a robust feel to it.

Between painting the Dwarven Forge, fooling with Arduino and Mechanno, playing Eyes of the Ten for three days straight this long weekend and blogging, God – I don’t know how I find time for it all.

Shout out to all the married guys going furniture shopping this weekend.


4 March, 2015

Painting Dwarven Forge Cavern Pieces – 8

1 March, 2015


Dry brushed the stone.

I attempted a crackle effect with PVA glue, but it didn’t do what I wanted. Happily, I was able to wash it all off before it set.

Instead, I varnished the lava with a bit more gloss medium. Some tiles look better than others, bit overall, its ok.

Tried to do the black on the shoreline texture, as per the various videos, but it didn’t work with the surrounding stone. So instead I painted solid yellow over the thin bits. This created a solid lemon yellow border around the lava, which I didn’t like, so I miked up some yellow-white and put some dabs in.

Not the result I was expecting, but it doesn’t look totally crap, which is a win if you ask me. Looks quite a bit better IRL than in this photo. There are some bits that aren’t blended well, and the result looks a ittle sqare – but that’s inevitable.

Job done, I think.

Next, I will just do a f-ton more standard pieces as per my previous posts.

Painting Dwarven Forge Cavern Pieces – 7

1 March, 2015

Well. This is what we have.

I used a lot of medium. 2:1 . I’m hoping that the colours will bleed into each other, and that it will reduce in bulk as it dries.

Gave up on the idea of brushing a texture into it, obviously. Dabbed it with a finger to blend the colours, the main thing being to be mindful of which colour is on which finger. The masking tape was so that I could handle the pieces without getting lava all over the rock.

The paint is thick enough that there is no point touching it again until tomorrow.

Painting Dwarven Forge Cavern Pieces – 6

1 March, 2015


I am going to attempt the lava. I feel puckish, I feel overconfident, and if I fuck it up then that’s a thing, because I didn’t pay for these things all by myself.

Couple of YouTube videos later, and these are some experiments.

The two on the right seem to work. The rightmost used a much thinner wash for the final red.

First step is the base coat on the floor, and a primer coat on the lava.

The floor is not the charred black basaltic look, but is coloured to match the other tiles.

The primer is straight yellow with some gloss medium. Absolutely necessary. One of the things my experiment uncovered is that paint won’t stick to flat dwarvenite without a little encouragement. Main thing is to stipple at least some primer into the little pools beside the river bank.

(I’ll have to water it down for the wash, hope doing that doesn’t run the gloss effect).

Note the third example in the first picture above. Because the final colours go on runny, brush-marks matter. Which is great, because you can give the lava some texture. So I am using a pattern that – hopefully – creates a roiling sea. Maybe. This undercoat probably won’t affect the final result, but I may as well start as I mean to continue.

The next step will be to ink wash the bank. Slopping a little lava onto the bank is fine: getting muddy brown-black onto the lava will not work.

Make, Hack, Void – Arduino workshop

27 February, 2015

Make Hack Void is a group of dudes who have managed to lease a horrible old government building – the old water police building at Lake Ginninderra. This space is the eponymous ‘void’ of the title. A little industrial and ugly, but tools line the walls, and the table we sat at had a powerstrip down the middle, with dozens of power points. Which is what you want.

Tonight (and again this Saturday) they ran an Introduction to Arduino workshop. It was great.

For me, the best part was Stephen getting the kits together. One hurdle to getting started with this stuff is “what am I going to need?”. Sourcing the bits. Attendees were told to bring a laptop loaded with the Arduino software (which is free at the link he gave), and he really did provide everything else. There was a moment when I thought “crap – I didn’t bring a serial cable!” but no – when the moment came Stephen tossed a short serial cable to each of us.

We got:

It was all thought of, is what I am saying.

With respect to making it all go, Stephen had prepared six mini-projects. We did three, which is always the way – you panic about not having enough material and it always turns out you have way too much.

Project 0 was hello world, using the Arduino serial interface and the GUI running on your laptop.

Project 1 was Das Blinkenlights. Make an LED blink.

Project 2 was the very fun tricolor LED.

And as we were short of time, we skipped forward to the peizo buzzer.

We didn’t get to making the motor go, but it really doesn’t matter. Simply getting the gear going at all is the big step.


We chewed up time attempting to explain to people how to program – “this is a variable, this is an if statement”. I very much doubt that anyone has ever absorbed the Zen by having someone give a talk on control structures: you need context.

Stephen had people type the code off the projector rather than copy it off the web. I agree: there’s something mystical about it when you do it the hard way. The problem is time in a session like this – people who aren’t programmers aren’t instinctively going to put in all the semicolons, and they chewed up time fixing compilation errors.

Perhaps something that would work better is “here is some code, get your chip working, ok – now hack up the code to do X”. Change the blink rate, the colours – whatever. For instance, the pezio example could have made the chip sound for 3 seconds, then add a switch, then add a potentiometer.

But aside from that, it’s all good. I’m not sure what I might want to – you know – do with the board now that I have it, but I can do anything I want. What I really want is a thing to open my blinds in the morning. I have a streetlight outside, its a pain in the butt. The kit has a light sensor, I will need a somewhat more grunty motor to work the twisty thing on the blind.

Say: maybe what I need is two light sensors, one with a coloured gel to filter out the streetlight. I might be able to tell when it’s daylight by comparing the two. First order of business, then, would be to set up the sensor and collect data and then see if I can derive a rule for when to open the blinds.

The point being that with the Arduino, this project is doable. I wouldn’t have had the confidence or the impetus to wander into Jaycar and get started by myself, wouldn’t have known what to get. Having the guys there was very worthwhile.

You know – the session was not just an introduction to Arduino, it was an introduction to the MHV community. That’s the hidden purpose behind that nice lasercut mounting board. The message being: “we have guys here who can produce this sort of stuff”. And they do.

That’s the point.

Painting Dwarven Forge Cavern Pieces – 5

26 February, 2015

Well, I have done as much as I am going to do on the bits that don’t have specials. The bare walls are dry-brushed with basically the original colour (white, yellow oxide, raw umber) before the ink wash – maybe a shade lighter.

The cave formations are highlit with – again – the original colour (white, metallic pearl, yellow oxide, unbleached titanium) a shade lighter. Higlighting is like dry-brushing, but wetter.

Floors likewise. I don’t like the colour I brushed them with. Same as the original, but it’s kinda come out a bit orange. I’d prefer a less saturated (ie: more grey) colour.

Here’s a pic.

The unbleached titanium makes the calcite come out a shade pinkish. But only a shade. Maybe a bluish tint might have been cool, go the spooky.

Want to get this done tonight. Tomorrow is the Introduction to Arduino workshop at Make, Hack, Void, and Friday is game night.

I am beginning to suspect that attempting to paint while listening to Iron Maiden is actually a bad idea.


All done, except for some varnish on the water to make it nice and shiny.

Mushrooms are done in lava colours – fire red base, red lightened with orange for a highlight, orange and red to pick out a couple of individual spots.

Pools of water – I laid down a coat of white, then another one, then a coat of the iddescent pearl (which I think might have been a bit pointless), then two coats of hydra turquoise. I might have preferred a deeper blue, but this looks fine. Really, water in a cave isn’t blue – the turquiose is a visual idiom that says “this is water”.

The base coats might have been unnecessary – the turqiouse is pretty opaque if you shake the bottle adequately before use. I didn’t mix the pearl into the blue, because water isn’t metallic. It needs a layer of clear nail polish to make it look right.

Oh, and I picked out the texture on the wooden doorway with some raw umber and white. Not too much white. Antique gold on the piles of loot which may actually supposed to be mushrooms. But meh – maybe they are gold-top mushrooms. Or maybe they are mushrooms that look like loot to get the characters to stumble into them and get spored – bwahahaha!

The flash on the photo makes the iridescent cave formations look a bit brighter than they actually look in person.

Thank you linesmen, thank you ball-boys. A will have a beer, then it’s bed-time and work tomorrow. Maybe I can make d2rq talk to Joseki, maybe not.


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