Friday, January 04, 2019

Happy 2019!

I hope you all had a good holiday, having much food, merriment and gaming.

I, for one, had an excellent holiday, filled with gaming, skiing and relaxing.  Fortunately, I was able to take three full weeks off during the holidays.  In fact, I don't go back to work until Monday.  Eat your heart out...

Despite a few issues, such as having to get our hot water heater looked at for a low flow problem, the holidays were super smooth.  We eschewed any major parties or events, aside from a short ski trip to Mt. Washington over New Year's Eve.  It was good.  Relaxing by the fire, good food, good wine and other libations.  Makes for a relaxing holiday.

As always, my ambitious to do list suffered.  Always figuring I have more time/energy than actual, but at least I managed to pick away at a few things.  Sadly, very little painting got done, but the new year shall bring more opportunities.

This year will be more models, more gaming, even some more writing, as well as some more philosophy as I feel like writing it.

May the coming year bring us more free markets, smaller government, less taxes and more prosperity!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Painting progress

Over the last few weeks I've made some progress on painting.  First up is the finally-finished Eldar Hemlock Wraithfighter.  It's on the far right, and pictured with the 1000 points of Eldar I've been working on for the Warhammer 40k builder's league at our local game shop, Everything Games.


Doing this builder's league, for me at least, was a way to push more painting, and get more models done.  Given that the league is over, but I've managed to paint quite a few things, I'd call it a mixed success.

A closer look at the Hemlock, showing the painted cockpit.  This model fits together great, but those smooth, curvilinear surfaces take a LOT of coats of paint.  Will have to use an airbrush for future models like this one.  Still, it turned out rather nicely for the efforts.


However, there's still more to do to finish the 2000 points of models for the league (or, more appropriately, my own goal).


That whole shelf needs to be done, less some of the unprimed guys at the back.

However, for now I'm working on a bit of a palate cleanser, a mini for my D&D warlock character in the campaign we play weekly after work.


He's coming along nicely, and it's always refreshing to paint a model that is more 'freeform,' in that there's no uniform, no specific colour scheme, just a chance to play with colour choices and painting techniques.

After this guy, it's back to the grind with my team of Imperial Guard for the Kill Team game, as well as the ruined building terrain pieces (one of which is pictured behind them, sprayed grey for a basecoat).


After that, maybe back to a dragon I had started before the builders' leagues took all my painting time.


She'll be a green dragon, though I've always liked the Larry Elmore style contrasting belly scales, so I went with a nice, deep yellow.  The base and wings are in front, separate so as to get all the hidden areas.

Along with all that, there's the Age of Sigmar builder's league, so I've got a bunch of Seraphon to paint up for that one...

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Your Student Loans are Your Problem

Your student loans are your problem.  Not inflicted on you by some nebulous ‘patriarchy,’ ‘system,’ or other make-believe oppression.  You wanted to go to university or college.  You wanted to learn something.  You signed on the dotted line.

Let’s say that again: You signed on the dotted line.

What did you sign?  Well, you willingly said you would be happy to borrow money from someone (the taxpayer, the bank, a lender, uncle Bob) to fund your education, and committed to paying it back.

Let’s review that last part again: Committed to paying it back.

And there’s the crux of the matter.  You said you’d pay it back.  Put your name to it, in fact.  Therefore, it stands to reason that that’s exactly what you should do.

Why am I thinking of this?  I’ve seen a few of the debt forgiveness posts floating around social media, as well as those stupid “I am the 99%” wanna-memes.  Plus the talk floating up from below the 49th about debt forgiveness and other idiot ideas like ‘free’ tuition.  I put free in quotes because, frankly, it’s not free.  Someone is paying, and why the hell shouldn’t it be you?  That and I had some ideas I wanted to wrangle in my mind.

So, now you’ve got student loans. 

“I got these to better myself!” you cry.  “I need this to earn a living wage!” you wail (whatever a living wage actually is).  “You just want education for the rich!” as your teeth gnash together like jackhammers of envy.

Fair.  Cool story bro.  Don’t care.  I don’t care what your reasons are.  They're your reasons and not my concern.  However, you took someone else’s money, and used it for a purpose, and now you have to give it back.  Sometimes with interest.  That’s how it works.  No one looks twice about the fact that you have to pay back a mortgage, or a car loan, or a credit card.  Makes perfect sense.  You spent the money pre-emptively, then you pay it back.  In many cases, in a planned fashion, financing something of worth is a sensible way to do business. 

So, why shouldn’t you have to pay back your student loans? 

“But it’s so hard!” you whine.  “I don’t make a living wage!” you bitch.  Too damn bad.  I thought your loans were for an education that would pay off?  Did you do research into your chosen field?  Did you look to see what your degree program would earn you on the other side?  No?  Well, you made your choice, now deal with it. 

Maybe you should have gone to the school in town, rather than add residence to the tally.  Maybe you should have considered a shorter program, or a trade instead.  Maybe skipped it altogether if your degree program was so useless as to be a ‘barista mill’ (no offence to real baristas.  I truly appreciate someone who can make a good cup of coffee.  Seriously, caffeine = fuel).

Bottom line, if the degree program you want ends in the word “studies” or has the term “social justice” anywhere in it, chances are it’s worthless.  As in, no one will pay you do to that. 
And you know what?  Go ahead and do it anyway.  Whatever floats your boat.  The thing is, the rest of society should not be held to account for your choices.  If you can’t make a 'living wage,' then that’s on you for the program you picked.  Didn’t get any skills anyone wants to pay you to do?  That’s on you.

Now we can cue the chorus of “we were 18 and had no idea!” wailing.  Well, you should have.  You’re 18 years old, for goodness sake!  Old enough to be sent overseas in combat.  Old enough to decide the future of your nation at the ballot box.  More than old enough to guide 5 tonnes of steel, plastic and glass at 100km/hr on a highway.  Old enough to own a gun.  Why aren’t you old enough to choose your major intelligently?

Granted, guidance counselors are completely useless.  Parents have been, in many cases, similarly clueless for different reasons.  “Any degree is a good degree” and “follow your passion and the money will follow” are stupid ideas that should die in fire.  They’re wrong.  They're 'nice to haves.'

Also, be ready to move.  If you can’t find work at ‘home’ then you have to move.  Sorry muffin, you can’t stay in your hometown forever if there are no jobs in your field in that town.  Maybe not in your home province even.  Get over it, or stay there and suck it up.  Yes, it sucks building up a new support network in a completely new place.  Yes, it sucks to have a long distance relationship with your parents/kids/grandparents/family/long time friends.  Get over it.

Pay the money back, and in so doing keep your integrity and your honour intact.  Or don't take it in the first place.

Parents: consider various saving options if you’re going to push your kids to some sort of post-secondary.  RESPs (Canadian registered education savings plans) are a great idea.  Or just bank the money a little bit every year.  If they don’t go, or need less, then you’ve got some extra cash at the end to use, or they can use it to launch themselves into the world.

Right about now I expect there will be some whinging in the background about how the cost of tuition is “out of control!!11!1!!!!!eleventy!!11!!!”

I agree.

The cost of tuition in many programs has risen dramatically, even since the days I was in school some twenty years ago.  Why?  I lay much of the blame on government money.  Interestingly, this fact may also shed light on a solution to both the problems of excess student loans that people can’t pay back as well as rising costs of tuition for worthless degrees.

End government student loans.  All of them.  Loans, grants, any government money going to students to study.  No exceptions.

I’ll wait while the statists amongst you recoil in horror. 

Why did government money cause this problem?  Short version: it was too easy to get.

Government student loans have been around for decades, and in most cases the loans were analyzed in a ‘needs based’ fashion.  That means those who qualified did so on the basis of being unable to afford post-secondary education, or having low ability to afford it.  The amount would often be keyed to the resources available to a given student.  This sounds like a good solution, in that those who really needed the money to go would qualify for it.

However, what happens when there’s an easy source of money that isn’t tested for means of payback?  

Well, the universities can compensate for cash flow problems (read: stupid, profligate spending) by jacking up tuition.  Isn’t that bad for students?  Well, yes, but the government student loans kept flowing so the system kept churning.

Add to that the progressive credentialism of needing ever more greater levels of education (“masters preferred” in job postings) which don’t really add value, as well as various professional faculties (law and medicine, I’m looking at you) needing a ‘pre-degree’ to qualify for your 'real' degree, and you can see why the costs can soar.

So, why will ending government student loans solve the problem?  Well, it won’t for those who already have student loans.  You took the money, you need to pay it back.  Else you’re ultimately just a thief.  Sorry not sorry.

What ending government student loans will do is put the onus back onto the borrowers to prove that their student loan will be a reasonable investment.

So, who should give student loans?  Private institutions.  Let the banks do it.  Loaning money is, after all, a core aspect of their business.  What it will also do is force borrowers to answer the question: will I be able to pay this loan back.  Lenders will also analyze the risk of a given loan, just as they do right now.  If you are intent on pursuing a ‘victim studies’ degree, for which the average annual earnings on graduation amount to minimum wage service work, then the chance of that bank or lender authorizing a huge loan is minimal.  They’ll look at what you likely can pay back, so you may qualify for a few thousand, no more.

Go for a STEM degree, and likely you’ll qualify for more.  Should you take all of it?  Only if you absolutely have to.  But at least as an engineer you have a good shot at handling that debt.  The loan gets treated as a lending risk, with the attendant analysis conducted by the lender, and ideally students won’t even qualify for a debt load they couldn’t afford.  If they need more, they can work for it in the summers or part time. 

Do I have full faith that banks will properly analyze the risk?  Well, no more or less than they already do.  And it's then between the lender and borrower, with no involvement from the rest of us.  The onus will be put back on the borrowers and lenders to make sure they all have eyes wide open before money changes hands.  Maybe it will also make some students think twice about their choices before taking on large amounts of money with only a nebulous idea of payback.


That, and the government won’t be on the hook for defaulted loans or need to have the cash reserve to fork over the money.  And that means less risk and burden to the taxpayer, which is the very best part of all.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Star

I started writing this post a while ago.  Then realized I needed to download some more photos from my phone.  Then, well, I just didn't.  And then couldn't for a while.  And after that I didn't want something else to go up first, because she deserved to be the next post.  Or maybe I just didn't feel up to it.  Between Star and Buddy, 2017 was best viewed in the rear-view mirror.

July 31st, 2017, my beloved Star passed away.

Just shy of her 13th birthday.  It was not a surprise, in that she had contracted the cryptococcus fungus, and it had made its way into her central nervous system.  It was only a matter of time, and we loved her fiercely for that last year.

It started those thirteen years ago when my wife saw a posting at her work for two kittens to a good home. The usual sort of post and she broached the idea, knowing I had lost my last cat not too many years ago.  She asked if we should get one, and I said 'why not both?'  Thus Star and her brother Tyr came into our lives.

Here she is, in her very first photo: (yes, it's an actual polaroid that was scanned)
Her name came from the little white 'star' on her chest.

We brought them home in the next few days, and ever since then they have been a feature of our house.

Here she is with her brother, in a typical 'cat pile' on the couch:

While Tyr was the more laid back one, Star would be the first to explore a new place, a new thing or just check out what was going on.  During the drive across the country, however, they swapped roles.  He was chill and happy so long as 'his people' were there.  Star, however, was not amused and just wanted to cuddle down with daddy every night.  She was also the 'library cat.'  Her favourite place was the footstool to my reading chair in the library, whether in our house in Orangeville, ON or now here in Victoria.

She would also purr at the drop of a hat.  Neither loud nor soft, she had this consistent motor that would activate as soon as you touched her or paid her any attention.  She would happily be picked up (she had no problem being carried), climb halfway up my shoulder and purr away while I walked around the house with her.  Star and Tyr bonded with me over the years, I was definitely their 'cat daddy.'

She was also my whisky drinking buddy.  Star had a fascination with any sort of liquid, particularly held in cups.  When you were in the bath she'd come and dip her paw in to see the water move.  If you left a glass of something she'd play with it to the point of knocking it over.  So, one day I was having a wee dram, and Star came over to see what I had in my glass.  Well, she came over and jammed her face into my glass, and got a face-full of Laphroaig Quarter Cask single malt Scotch whisky.  As you can imagine, what she really got was a face full of peat smoke!

She jumps off the couch and across the room, huffing and sneezing the whole way.  I figured that was that, and she'd be gone to go have a nap somewhere where her nose wouldn't be full of delicious, molten campfire on your tongue.

I was wrong.

The next thing I know, she's back on the couch, crawling into my lap and this time bringing her head slowly towards my whisky glass, carefully sniffing it.  From that day on, she was hooked.  Every time I have a dram, she had to come over and check it out.  She had preferences too, the smokier the better.  Laphroaig, Jura, all the good peaty ones were her favourites, while many of the Speysides left her bored.  Over time, she occasionally would lick my finger if I dipped it in, but for her the smell was enough.  I figure with her sense of smell, it must have held so many different flavours.

When she started having seizures, I took her to the vet, and ultimately some bloodwork revealed the fungus infection.  I did some reading and if it gets past the blood-brain barrier, it's only a matter of time.

We decided that that time would be nothing but love.  And it was.  No matter that she would have seizures, no matter that towards the end she couldn't control her bladder as well as normal, she always had a place on the couch, in front of the fire, or anywhere else.  When she couldn't jump up on the beds, we would lift her there.  She kept catpiling with her brother and enjoying the big windowsills in the house.


Eventually she decided that my daughter's room was the place to be, and that became her sanctuary away from the others.  We moved some food and water in and kept her favourite blanket there for her.  Sure, she had 'accidents' there but nothing that couldn't be washed out.

One day, she was on my daughter's bed, both of them napping.  It was just another weekend day, a Sunday. I was folding some laundry and my oldest comes into the room saying there's something wrong with Star.

While napping, she had slipped away.

Knowing it was coming didn't help.  I've been down this road before, and it's never easy.  Nor do I want it to be.  I want to feel it, to know that there's a hole in your heart and rage at the universe because it took away your little cat.  But it is the way of things.

So instead, I leave this tribute. No one may ever read it, and it may languish in a small corner of the internet but let it be known that this one, small cat mattered.  To me, to our family, and the world is dimmer now that she left it.

Shine on, little Star.  I love you.  Always.

All three of the 'original crew'

She had the best 'laser beam' eyes.  A beautiful green.

Keeping an eye on things

Nap time in the library

Not a lot of photos of one without the other

Making friends

Checking out Spot the gerbil

What a pretty girl!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Monday, May 15, 2017

Irons in the fire

So many irons in the fire the last few weeks, it's been crazy.

However, to give you something to bide your time, here's my Reaper quarterly contest, Sir Conlan.

First Bones mini I ever painted, and the material stacks up well against anything else.  Very strange not to use primer though.  Very strange indeed.





A friend of mine has a much better photo setup, and now that I've been able to pick his brain, mine will get better too.  Much better (which I will tell all of you about too).

Monday, April 03, 2017

Buddy

Today my daughter's bearded dragon, Buddy, passed away.  Not a happy day in our household.  She was so happy to get him, she saved her own money, learned everything she needed to and finally, here he was.



Some say reptiles don't make very good pets.  I'd say they're wrong, though to each their own.  He grew pretty quick, and eventually made for a good hat.


He was a pretty happy dude.  Enjoyed chasing crickets in his tank for breakfast, lounging on his log and looking out the window, and coming out to roam the living room and say hello to the cats.

He could be pretty cuddly too.  In the evening when it was time for bed he would happily crawl up into the crook of your neck and sit there, slowly falling asleep.  Put a blanket on him (it kept your body heat in for him) and he would lie there as long as you'd let him.

Most days I'd go in to say hi and give him a scritch on the top of his head or a nice stroke.  He enjoyed that, closing his eyes and revelling in the attention.

Climbing was something else he enjoyed.

He was a special guy, and it's been heartbreaking this evening.

Here's to you , Buddy.  Love you.  We'll miss you.