Monthly archives: October 2010

links for 2010-10-30

  • Simulating an emergency is important for first responders. It's also really expensive. So a group of about a dozen emergency responders in Clearwater Junction, Montana came up with an idea to simplify and scale down the training process.

    They created a scale model of the Clearwater Junction area with five gallons of sand, colored shoestring, tiny plastic trees and a little guidance from Google Earth.

    (tags: model)

links for 2010-10-29

  • Security equipment exhibition will take place in Moscow for the next several days.
  • There is a ripple of rage spreading across Britain. It is clearer every day that the people of this country have been colossally scammed. The bankers who crashed the economy are richer and fatter than ever, on our cash. The Prime Minister who promised us before the election “we’re not talking about swingeing cuts” just imposed the worst cuts since the 1920s, condemning another million people to the dole queue. Yet the rage is matched by a flailing sense of impotence. We are furious, but we feel there is nothing we can do. There’s a mood that we have been stitched up by forces more powerful and devious than us, and all we can do is sit back and be shafted.

    This mood is wrong. It doesn’t have to be this way – if enough of us act to stop it. To explain how, I want to start with a small scandal, a small response – and a big lesson from history.

    (tags: protest tax)
  • Cory Doctorow is a best-selling science-fiction writer, champion of creative commons and, now, self-publishing pioneer. He's distributing his latest book, a collection of short stories called With a Little Help, without the aid of a publishing house. Instead, he has turned to his online community, and social networks like Facebook and Twitter, to help build buzz, get advice and even copy edit his new book.

links for 2010-10-28

  • The future of the last airworthy Cold War Vulcan bomber is "on a knife edge", according to its owners.

    Leicestershire-based Vulcan to the Sky Trust needs to hit its £400,000 funding target before Monday.

    By Thursday morning, the charity had received £270,000, with trustees meeting later to discuss options.

    (tags: aircraft)

Creating the cover for Sounds of Soldiers

When I first published Sounds of Soldiers, as a print on demand book available through, I created a cover for it that I just wasn’t happy with. I’m not sure why. I did do some planning, which I then went and threw away when I did the artwork. A couple of days ago I found some of the sketches I did when casting about for ideas.


Take note of the fourth image on the top row, we’ll be returning to it.

This idea appealed enough for me to get the coloured pens and do some shading.


So when I decided I was going to do a Kindle version I vowed to create a new cover for it. The image of death after a battle appealed, and knowing I couldn’t possibly do the idea justice in a drawing or painting I fell upon the idea of building a diorama to depict the scene. Initially I was thinking of the tank graveyard or post ambush sequences in the book, but the gun as a grave marker came back as an idea after a while. After a bit of Googling, but no more sketching, I had a good idea of what I wanted to do. I ordered 1:6th scale action figure accessories from EBay (a quick shout out to cbtoycollectables and qqmodels, the two merchants I used), ordered a display case from Hobby’s and picked up most of the other stuff I needed from my local model shop.

The components

The wooden stake was weathered by hitting it with a hammer and then holding it over one of the rings on the cooker (it’s good to be on gas). The ground was roughed out using polystyrene packaging from the ever growing pile in the corner of the room. With stake and base glued down I set about building up the ground. The first layer was Woodland Scenics flex paste, which I painted with first their earth undercoat and then Tamiya’s diorama texture paint. Ground cover is real leaves. I spotted a load of these tiny leaves on the ground one day and just scooped them up. I don’t know what they’re from, but they work. Much careful fixing with wood glue later I had a good looking earth mound covered with autumn leaves. Further detail was added using more Woodland Scenics stuff.

Basic set up After adding flex paste A coat of Earth Undercoat With Tamiya diorama texture paint Dead leaves added

I painted some bare metal onto the gun, and weathered it, the boots and the helmet, but the photos I took of that are all quite blurry. The only one that came out is of the smashed lens I put into the lamp on the gun. I lost the lens which came with the gun, so I cut out bits of clear plastic and glued them into the lamp.

Smashed lamp

Put everything together and, after a bit more weathering, I had this-

The finished piece

After a little resizing, and with another shot of blue sky to put on the back cover, I dropped the image into the template I’d used for the original cover. I failed to do any images of the various steps I took in Photoshop, so straight to the finished cover image-

Sounds of Soldiers full wrap cover

I put more effort into the lettering than I have in the past, and I’m much happier with the result. The title and my name on the front cover have an aluminium pole texture under them courtesy of

Sounds of Soldiers will be available for the Kindle, and with its new cover from Lulu, from next week. I shall be running a competition to win the model used in the original cover artwork. Check out for details in the next few days.

My gun as grave marker idea puts me in very good company.

This is Peace and War, the omnibus collection of Joe Haldeman’s Forever War, Forever Peace and Forever Free. I haven’t read Free and Peace, but I have read War. It’s a very good book, using relativist effects as a metaphor for soldiers in a distant war become ever more alienated from the people they are supposedly fighting for.

Girls are dirty. I like that

On the left is a breakdown of same sex experiences and desires amongst women on dating site okcupid who described themselves as straight. Over half of them have had, or want to have, a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex.

Ladies, I salute you.

The guys are letting the side down by comparison (right pie chart). Come on boys, get your thumbs (and other bits) out. (In the interest of full disclosure, I fall into the 7% slice of this pie.)

People who’ve signed up to a dating site are a self selecting bunch as far as the deeper meaning of these statistics go. They’re likely to be a bit more adventurous than the general population. However, I think these pie charts illustrate the wonderful fluidity of human sexuality. It’s far more varied, and fun, than the homophobes would have us believe.

The pie charts were taken from this interesting post about statistical differences between gay and straight members of okcupid.

via Ben Goldacre’s twitter feed.

The Government wants to waste our money spying on our emails

The Government is looking to spend up to £2billion finding ways to read everyone’s internet and email traffic. Whilst they’re expecting the rest of us to suffer through their cuts they’re wasting a huge amount on a scheme which will achieve nothing, apart from maybe generating tons of false positives from people discussing their latest exploits in Medal of Honor.

The Open Rights Group has a petition to sign to tell Clegg, Cameron and Theresa May how bad an idea you think this is.

(It’s tempting, after two posts featuring reference to Godwin’s Law, to claim that this is just the sort of things the Nazis would have done. But some people have a hard time recognising sarcasm/irony, so I’ll let it be.)

Still saying nothing with numbers 2

Not satisfied with simply being homophobic and mysoginist, would be holy warrior Richard Carvath is branching out into racism*. He’s terrified that Mohammed was the 16th most popular name for baby boys in 2009. 16th! All the good white Christian folk are going to be ground under the heels of the Allah chanting brown hordes!

Except that there were 15 more popular names (here’s the top 100). Oliver was most popular- we’re in danger of being overrun by urchins! Harry was third- prepare for the speccy wizard apocalypse! Alfie was fourth- fear the coming wave of cockney lotharios! Etc.**

I know what Carvath thinks he’s saying- the muslim community is growing fast enough for one of their most popular boy’s names to slot into the list amongst all the properly Christian christian names. Something should be done! Because we all know that every single muslim is only one halal burger away from exploding and killing himself and everyone around him.

This fear of a brown neighbour is really weak and quite cowardly. People like Carvath who talk tough about fighting the “evil Mohammedan cult” reveal a lack of faith in the strength of their own beliefs. If they were so sure they were right they’d just go out there and sell their own religion. The only long term solution to religious extremism is secularism and humanism. Politicians need to stop pandering to those who whine loudest about the rights they demand because of their imaginary friend.

*I know that prejudice against Islam isn’t strictly racist, but it’s a fair bet that when Carvath says “Muslim” he’s thinking of brown men with beards, often wearing non Western styles of clothing.

**Jack was second. I can’t think of a cliche associated with Jack. Sorry.

links for 2010-10-27

  • In the early 1900s, Dr. T. Kenard Thomson proposed increasing NYC's property value by creating a land bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn, building an island off the Jersey shore, and constructing a "New Manhattan" directly below the old one.
    (tags: NewYork)
  • The Aokigahara Forest is the most popular site for suicides in Japan. After the novel Kuroi Jukai was published, in which a young lover commits suicide in the forest, people started taking their own lives there at a rate of 50 to 100 deaths a year. The site holds so many bodies that the Yakuza pays homeless people to sneak into the forest and rob the corpses. The authorities sweep for bodies only on an annual basis, as the forest sits at the base of Mt. Fuji and is too dense to patrol more frequently.
    (tags: japan video)

Is there an internet law about how some people are just too dumb to have a clue? 8

The Onion could probably do a good piece on some idiot calling for a repeal of Godwin’s Law and their made up fool wouldn’t sound any more clueless than Stewart Cowan when he demands the same thing. Now I know that I’ve slightly abused the definition of Godwin’s Law myself on occasion, but I at least understand it and its purpose. Godwin’s Law states- “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.” The longer and more heated a debate becomes, the more likely someone is to lose perspective and start comparing their opponents to Hitler. There is a corollory to the law which suggests that, in a civilised debate, the person who has just proven themselves an idiot automatically loses, the thread is officially closed and everyone should move on. Cowan isn’t very good at civilised debate.

You know the type-

“I’m not allowed to inflict my poisonous and foul smelling addiction on other people in pubs any more! It’s just like the Nazis!”

“The speed limit around schools has dropped to twenty, so that I’m less likely to kill children! It’s just like the Nazis!”

“I have to put a little thought into which bin I use! That might make me stop and realise how much waste I’m generating! It’s just like the Nazis!”

“I’m not allowed to use my religion to justify breaking the law and discriminating against people! It’s just like the Nazis!”

“People are paying more attention to the carefully researched, proven facts than my poorly thought out propaganda! It’s just like the Nazis!”


Cowan is more eager than most to brand anyone doing something he doesn’t agree with a fascist. Even when he’s tackling something I could agree is objectionable, he’s too eager to go all frothy at the mouth to ever elicit any empathy from me. Somehow the fact that the majority of people polled didn’t think it’s a good idea to let idiot Americans pay addicts to be neutered passed him by. He’d rather lament about how it’s evil that some people like to stay in touch with reality when he thinks they should be joining him in his fantasy world.

I’m sure Stewart Cowan’s anger keeps him warm at night, but he’s the blogger who cried wolf- repeatedly and loudly- and has proven he has nothing useful to add to any debate.

links for 2010-10-26

  • A security flaw in the iPhone allows strangers to bypass the handset’s lock screen with a few button presses.
    (tags: iphone)
  • The t-shirt appears to show a hole through the wearer’s torso which reveals the scenery behind them, in homage to Valve Corporation’s puzzle platformer Portal. To create the effect, Heck cut a portal-shaped hole in the front of a t-shirt and positioned an LCD display behind the hole. On the back of the t-shirt was a CCD camera.

    Whatever the camera captures behind the wearer of the t-shirt is displayed on the screen at the front, thus giving the impression of a gaping hole in the person’s torso.

    (tags: cool)

The debate is now officially closed 1

Salford based political genius Richard Carvath is a gift that just keeps on giving. He’s supposedly on a self imposed blogging embargo until the end of October, but he keeps breaking it. Most recently he popped up to give us “a rare glimpse of the sort of efforts I do make with the media in my work, and also to show the sort of well-written, heavyweight letter which rarely sees the light of day in newsprint“.

The well written letter goes Godwin in the first sentence by comparing someone with a view different to Carvath’s to the Nazis (and slave traders). It ends with the heavyweight suggestion that human rights abuses in China somehow are the same thing as women in Salford choosing whether or not to have an abortion.

It’s almost too easy to pick on Carvath, but whilst he maintains his ill informed and often offensive opinions he’s going to keep providing material for my amusement.

links for 2010-10-23

  • It's all go in the world of futuristic Judge Dredd style guns today. Reports suggest that a battalion of US airmobile* troops in Afghanistan are to be equipped with the XM-25 computing smart-rifle, able to strike enemies hiding round corners or in trenches. A successful "proof of concept" of a guided homing bullet for use in sniper rifles has also been announced.

links for 2010-10-22