Daily archives: October 28, 2010

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 Lulu.com, 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 photoshoptextures.com.

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 spinneyhead.co.uk/books 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.