The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

On the recent supreme court decisions

Posted By on July 16, 2015

So here is the list of decisions this year, and I’m commenting on those from 25 June and 26 June.

Gay marriage

To my thinking, this is a step in the right direction, but doesn’t go far enough. At the core, how people set up their domestic arrangements should not be the business of the government period, excepting perhaps the registration of the contract to be held in escrow by a neutral party in the case of dispute later on – though I note that said neutral party doesn’t necessarily need to be a governmental institution. But, you sign the contract, you have some witnesses and everyone recognizes it.

As an aside, a dear friend of mine and I were discussing this and he felt that my view was a bit too unemotional. I recall what someone said to me when I was in uni, namely that his SCA marriage meant more to him than his civil one. Why? The SCA was his tribe, his community, and his marriage was

Now, there are a pile of objections to this from the broader social perspective, and I shall attempt to briefly refute them, point by point:

  • But the above would allow people to have multiple spouses?

    • So? Not the function of government to restrict people’s private affairs.
  • But all our law (health care, property, etc.) is based around 2 person marriage?

    • I’m pretty sure the smart actuaries can figure out how to charge more based on more people in your family, or figure out how to divide your assets by a number > 2 upon dissolution of the contract.
  • But the global homosexual conspiracy will force religious institutions to perform marriages!

    • Yeah, maybe, but I would oppose that. Of course, I also oppose requirements that folks need to service all customers equally, because it violates the principle of universality. (In brief – if a white supremacist doesn’t want to patronize a black-owned business, that’s okay, but if a white supremacist doesn’t want to rent to a black tenant, that is illegal, because the landlord is providing a public accommodation. I disagree with this distinction. No one should be forced into economic transactions. As an aside, they will pay the market price for their bigotry because they will lose customers, especially if their racism comes to light and they are shunned by the community.. or, they won’t, because people agree with them (see Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.
  • It shouldn’t be called “marriage”, it should be called something else.

    • You can call it whatever you like, but it needs to be the same for everyone otherwise you risk creating a double standard and violating equal protection under the law. I mean, if you want to call the filed contract your “domestic contract” and “marriage” is whatever happens in front of your community and the government doesn’t care, that’s fine, but there should be no official distinction between them. Given all that, just call it all marriage and be done with it.
  • Let’s call it ‘traditional marriage’ then.

From the court perspective, Roberts’ dissent is notable here. He states (among other things)

Stripped of its shiny rhetorical gloss, the majority’s argument is that the Due Process Clause gives same-sex couples a fundamental right to marry because it will be good for them and for society.

Last time I checked, having everyone be treated the same under the law was good for people and society, but let’s just put the above aside for now, and get on with the next one.


First, let me be clear and state that I do not hate Obamacare for the same reason that a lot of other people do. I think that the health care system in this country is broken, and I appreciate that this was at least an attempt to fix it (at least, theoretically). A lot of things are steps in the right direction. The idea of having a health insurance marketplace is a good one, but I think it would have worked out better if it evolved from a competitive economy rather than inept central planning. However, it takes the major step of allowing for a marketplace which was previously illegal. Now, if we can only shake off the yoke of health care being supplied by employers for about half of workers (most easily accomplished by removing tax breaks), and get those folks on to exchanges (so health care isn’t tied to employment) while also allowing for broader competition across state lines, we’d be headed nicely down the road to real reform. (I’m not going to touch on what policies I’d like to see offered here).

No, the main issue I have with this decision is that it essentially justifies itself by saying that the decision was “inartfully drafted”. Or, more plainly, that congress couldn’t make their meaning clear. If that is true, then that basically comes down to a fundamental problem, namely, that they suck at their jobs. I mean, Congress’s core mission is to draft and pass legislation. If that legislation is not clear, then they are bad at what they do.

Given their abysmal approval ratings, it seems that the public may realize this as well.

I also have problems with Roberts’ decision in that it seems inconsistent with the previous. I mean, for the second time in a row, he says that it’s totally okay to say “well, even though that’s not what they wrote, it’s an oops, and they meant to do this other thing” for Obamacare, but then comes down and says that “the point of due process isn’t to let everyone consume government services (in this case, registering marriages)”. Really? Not contradictory at all? I mean, I may disagree with many of the other members of the court, but at least their positions are consistent amongst each other.

Now, I would not be surprised if it’s not inartfully drafted, but rather that they put in that “established by the States” wording to try and get the states to actually establish their own exchanges. They just were surprised by how many states punted to the federal exchange, and now need to regroup lest it all fall apart without the subsidies.

I’m also concerned that this whole scheme will fail (likely because it doesn’t take the reform far enough) and everyone will shrug and say “see, a free market doesn’t work!” (as if the health insurance market is actually free) and we’ll be saddled with government one-size-fits-all health care.

If anyone wants me to whiteboard how I’d reform the system, I’d be happy to, but I won’t do so now.

Updated kids pictures gallery

Posted By on July 15, 2015

Max and Miles – 2015

It’s now updated through mid July and includes some pictures at the Bronx zoo.

Switching gears on the bobby bench

Posted By on July 7, 2015

I’ve switched from “decals” to “building”, and am working on a few different things.

Is the beginnings of a TNT warband of tribals, called The Murphys. I’ll write up a greater description at some later time, but the basic gist is that they’re the descendants of a bunch of punks, skins, and hardcore youths, brought together by their love of music from a Last Americans punk band from South Boston, with some crossover into the metal scene as well. Since this music is popular with folks who work with their hands and actually know how do build, do and fix things, they’ve done pretty well after the fall. They have a Celtic/Viking/punk vibe to them, and are a pretty inclusive community and let people join the tribe. All you need is a useful skill and either some claim to a Celtic or Viking ancestry (and this can be as thin as having your beard grown in red) or profess a love of punk music.

Anyway, this is 2 Tribal Warriors (spears and shields), a Champion (with a large-bore revolver and a sword which is cut off in the picture), a Scout (the lady with the cowboy hat and bow) and a Lesser Shaman (who rolled the Levitate ability, so I gave her a sniper rifle. The idea is that she’s a hunter who uses her levitate ability to hide in trees and such when hunting deer.). I still need to make up the War Leader (who has a rifle with bayonet) and 2 Tribals (who have shotguns).

The models are all from Wargames Factory and are a mix of a couple sprues of Celts (which I got as a promo somewhere) and the Apocalypse Survivors Men and Women boxes.

I’ve also been playing a lot of Dawn of War: Winter Assault, which has inspired me to start working on putting together some Imperial Guard stuff:

There are a couple of things in this picture. The main thing is a partially assembled Leman Russ Main Battle Tank, which is part of the big pile of stuff I inherited. I kind of get the impression that these were put together by several different people, because some are basically perfect and others are really rough (lots of leftover sprue bits, bad glue adhesion, etc.). This tank was one of the worst, so I took my hobby knife and carefully split it apart, and am now sanding it, cleaning it up, and putting it back together. Some gap filling will be required, but, all in all, it’s going well.

The idea behind this army, given the mix of Catachan, Cadian, and some generic or kitbashed models is that it is, at the core, a Catachan force that has been fighting its way across the galaxy. As a result, they’ve had to expand beyond their traditional jungle fighting ways, and have been reinforced with units who hail from other worlds. As such, they have swapped much of their close-ranged weaponry used for jungle fighting for other weapons with a longer range. So, their Sentinels have gone from being outfitted with flamers to having the conventional autocannons or multilasers fitted. Similarly, they take Leman Russ Main Battle Tanks and artillery (once I print them a couple) for support purposes, which normally have some issues in jungle warfare because they get bogged down going through the trees. However, as this army fought on various types of terrain, they adopted different support structures and tactics in order to adapt to the varying mission requirements. In the end, their structure ends up looking more like a standard IG army, and, hence, I’ll be using a standard IG force organization.

More decals…

Posted By on June 28, 2015

So, yeah, I’m kind of burnt out on decals, but I got a pretty decent amount of touch up and decal additions done.


Turrets. Unit 4 has 2 options, unit 2 is the guy on the stick and he goes in another unpictured turret, with just one option.


All completed units awaiting varnishing in the spray booth.

The astute reader and 40K nerd would perhaps notice a couple of things:

  1. The razorbacks and predator lack army designations.

    1. This is because, according to Dark Angels OrBat those are not organically part of a battle company (in my case, the 5th), but rather drawn from the Armorium as needed. As such, they don’t get army designations, except, perhaps for the Armorium, for which I do not have decals. A rhino, however, would.
  2. The dreadnought’s number isn’t over its army designation.

    1. That’s because it’s too hard to read (white on white). So, I moved it.


Another shot of the Chaplain and landspeeder, with an attack bike not in the above shot.

The same reader above might say that the chaplain should have a green shoulder pad because, while space marine chaplains always paint their armor black, the left shoulder is typically painted in the color of the chapter to which they belong and has that chapter’s sigil upon it (this is not 100%, depending on what painting guide or codex you reference, but I like it). However, the Dark Angels are weird – the whole army doesn’t use the same sigil. The sword and wings on a green field are used by most of the army, but the deathwing (first company) uses a red sword and wings on a bone white field, and the ravenwing (second company) uses a different white sword and wings on black. Since the chaplain is attached to the company, not the army, it makes sense to me that such a chaplain would use the company sigil. Hence, all black armor and a ravenwing sigil, not a generic dark angels sigil.

The jetpack chaplain, however, will be attached to the 5th company (likely attached to an assault squad most of the time) and will have the normal green shoulder pad and white sword with wings sigil.

Wargaming rules post collection

Posted By on June 27, 2015

So, I’ve been wanting to do a couple of these posts for awhile, one for wargames and one for roleplaying games. This is the one about wargaming. I’ll break it down by scale (meaning the size of miniatures) and scale (meaning the size of the engagement), the latter which I’ll call “scope” for clarity, and Genre. I’m ignoring genres or scales which I don’t play.

  • Scale: 15mm-30mm (one figure per base)
    • Scope: Platoon to company size (15 – 250 soldiers) (aka “army”)
      • Genre: Modern/SciFi
        • One Page 40K – This is basically the only game in town for games of this scale. All the other ones I’ve tried are just a boring slog which take too long to play. This is largely because they’re “scaled up” skirmish games. OnePage rules sacrifices a lot of fiddly bits (namely, weapon strength and rate of fire are aggregated together into the number of dice rolled, and the different models’ strength, toughness, and separate melee and ranged skills are aggregated together into a single quality number). The overall goals are fun and simplicity, and I’m finding that this leads to more tactical depth, because you can focus on tactics and not get hung up on the crunch. The rules aren’t currently generic, but they aim to be once they get the bugs worked out of the point calculation system.
    • Scope: Squad to platoon size (4 – 15 soldiers), maybe a little bigger (aka “skirmish”)
      • Genre: Modern/SciFi
        • One Page 40K This is the scaled down version of the One Page 40K rules. I have not played this extensively. As above, it is not currently generic, but intends to be.
        • Zed Or Alive is a modern post-zombie-apoc skirmish game. Uses the Savage Worlds Showdown engine, which is familiar to me. It’s less wargame-y and more “RPG light”. It is miniatures agnostic with point values for unit creation.
        • This is Not a Test is a near future postnuclear skirmish game, which throws a pile of different tropes together and hits blend. It’s pretty obviously heavily influenced by the Wasteland and Fallout series of games, as well as tabletop campaign-oriented skirmish games like Necromunda. It is miniatures agnostic with point values for unit creation.
        • Pulp City is a superheroes game, with mechanics that fit the theme and a rich backstory, and rules for doing all the fun pulpy stuff you’d like to do. It’s designed for play with their miniatures, and no unit creation rules are provided.
      • Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk
        • Warmachine and Hordes are a superbly balanced, well-modeled, strongly thematic, nominally skirmish pair of games which are widely played and I highly recommend. (Warmachine is based around the command of steam-powered robots, Hordes is based around the command of large creatures, and the two systems are compatible, so a Warmachine army can fight a Hordes army without issue). My only drawback to it is that I get burnt out on it because I love SF stuff and start to miss it. But, that’s not the game’s fault, it’s my malfunction.
  • Scale: Smaller than 15mm.
    • Genre: Space ships
      • Firestorm Armada is a space ship game which hits all the happy buttons with regards to space ship combat. It’s not generic per-se, but there are various homebrew points systems for creating ships, which I’ve found to work out to be pretty balanced.
      • Full Thust deserves an honorable mention. I very much like this system, but Liz doesn’t, mainly because of the pre-plotted movement. She vastly prefers the alternating system of Firestorm Armada and, while we could use the Firestorm Armada movement system with Full Thrust, it’s easier to just make up ship cards in Firestorm Armada.
      • X-Wing is a really good game and has the distinction of having the only movement pre-plotting mechanic which Liz likes (because it’s done very quickly and unobtrusively). Plus, the minis are prepainted, so it’s really a “pick it up and play” gateway game (or game for the busy gamer). I like the system so much, I may try to port it to the now defunct Crimson Skies game, because I have a pile of those planes, but everyone hates the movement system (alternatively, I’d use an alternating system, not unlike Firestorm Armada).
    • Genre: Naval
      • Dystopian Wars. So, I don’t generally like naval games. They just don’t really appeal to me. The exception is that very narrow period of time which was WWI-WWII, with large battleships with big guns with lots of aircraft flying around. Dystopian wars hits this in a Victorian SF setting, so you get a pile of weird things (cloaking devices, tesla guns, flying ships, etc.). It is non-generic. You use their minis and unit cards. There are no unit creation rules.
    • Genre: Land
      • Dystopian Wars covers land warfare too, with the same notes as above.
      • I don’t have a generic one. I’m looking. I own several, but I don’t really like them. I’m waiting for the One Page Rules guys to come out with something in this scale (likely called 1pEpic or something like that, after the now-defunct Epic 40k game, but the key here is that is must be generic. I have a pile of modern microarmor, as well as a bunch of epic 40k stuff, and I’d like to be able to use all of it under the same ruleset. In the One Page Rules Forums, some folks have reported success using the One Page Kill Team rules in that scale, and that’s not a bad approach. I mean, when engaged, infantry will either get killed, driven back, or pinned (called stunned). This makes sense. I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense with vehicles, but I could be sold on it – they either blow up, back off, or get rattled and don’t act. Fair enough. However, there aren’t rules for making units, nor are there some units that are really common in epic 40k games. It also is kind of an “all or nothing” killing of units rather than a graceful degradation of capabilities, like there is in the Dystopian Wars ruleset.. which may be another option – come up with a points system which works and use those rules. Not sure.
      • Axles and Alloys Post apoc automobile warfare with kitbashed matchbox/hot wheels cars. This is kind of its own thing, and is just fun.
      • Battletech: Alpha Strike This is a giant stompy robots (and, actually, airplanes, tanks and other combined arms) in the future game, and is a streamlined version of the regular Battletech game. This allows for both larger games playable in a normal time frame, or the same sized games as regular Battletech, but played in a shorter time frame. Liz and I played a 2 on 2 battle in half an hour, and that was while learning the rules. The game is fast, brutal, dynamic and, while the rules cover all situations, they are pretty simple, while keeping the real flavor of Battletech. As with other rules discussed in this post, they get out of their own way, and make you want to focus on campaigns and strategy, and not making sure you get the rules correct, because doing so is simple.
    • Genre: Air
      • Dystopian Wars covers air warfare too, with the same notes as above.
      • I don’t have a generic one here either. I’d love to use my Crimson Skies planes, but there are two problems with those rules as written:
        1. Liz hates pre-plotted movement.
        2. I don’t like the way the guns are done – large caliber guns make big holes at short range. Small caliber guns make small holes at long range. I get why they do this (game balance), but it’s kind of annoying.

        There are a couple of ways to fix these items. I’ll take them in order, using the same numbers as above.

        1. The simple solution is to not pre-plot movement. Have the activations alternate between players, even better, happen based on pilot skill. This is how most of the games detailed above work. Alternatively, you can borrow from X-Wing, which does pre-plot movement, but uses a really good mechanic for doing so (namely, a little dial which you set then put upside down near the ship or plane). With the advent of 3D printers, making your own really nice looking ones becomes easier.
        2. There are a couple of steps to fix this. The first is to rework the ranges so small caliber has a short range and large caliber has a long range. However, you need some type of way to keep it in balance. Options:
          • Limit ammo for larger caliber ones (this ends up requiring more bookkeeping, which is not great).
          • Let smaller caliber stuff shoot more (roll more dice). This results in rolling buckets of dice.
          • Make smaller guns cost less in terms of game points.

          I’m not certain which is correct. It also influences how damage is recorded. The original game uses sheets where you color in boxes for your planes as they get damaged, which is a lot of fun to watch your plane get shot up. But, if you let some guns shoot more, you end up having planes get shot down more quickly. If you drop this requirement, and give each plane a certain amount of damage it can soak before it gets destroyed, then that works, and is pretty conventional.

          So, yeah, I’m not sure what to do here, which is why I’ve done nothing.

          If anyone knows of a good set of generic airplane rules, leave a comment.

Babies’ first Cabelas

Posted By on June 25, 2015

On the way back from a graduation in VA (much fun was had by all, but it is a loooong drive) we stopped by Cabelas in Hamburg, PA. This was the boys’ first trip. They didn’t quite know what to make of it.



The other project that’s been consuming my time…

Posted By on June 23, 2015

As I mentioned in a previous post, we’ve been working on a playset for the kids.

The plans and much of the hardware are from Pirate Play Ships, the rest is lumber, screws, etc. sourced locally. These pictures are from the week of memorial day, where we got most of the framing done. I need to take some more pictures once it’s finished, which will likely be in the next couple of weeks. I’ve also been shooting video of the progress, and will post that once I edit it all together. I also plan to post compiled notes and tips, etc. if someone reading this was inclined to order the plans and build it themselves. (The main thing lacking in the plans is an estimate of how many screws to buy – we’re currently up to about 15lbs of screws of varying sizes, and knowing how much we’d need ahead of time would have been helpful).




Children for scale, of course.

Beer recipes

Posted By on June 7, 2015

So, it occurred to me that I could put my beer recipes in a code repository, since they’re just XML. So, they’re up on github.

Eventually, I’ll make a real page for it. Probably.


Posted By on June 6, 2015

In the grim darkness of the future.. guys on motorcycles are cavalry.

Kicking off my “I suck at painting army signage so I’m going to use waterslide transfers now” (more on this later), I’m starting with my bike squad and the often associated chaplain on a bike:

The idea here is that I brush-painted over my bad unit markings, touched up some other things, and then used the airbrush and some Future to seal it against the water from the waterslide transfers softening up the paint.

This is the result:

Which I then sealed again with more future in order to stop the varnish from possibly getting underneath them and lifting them (though I’ve never had a problem with this with transfers, because I’ve never risked it, I have had an issue with some of the metallic particles coming loose and floating. It’s not as much of a problem if you’re spraying the varnish on, but it can be if you’re brushing it on).

Anyway, stuff I’ve learned about waterslide transfers…

For starters, when I was younger, I had several problems with them:

  1. They would tear.
  2. The models couldn’t be handled once the transfers were applied, as they would rub off.

Doing some research this time (because it’s not 1995 anymore and we have the internet), I found:

  1. Seal with Future where the transfers are to be applied, both to protect the paint and provide a smooth surface on which they should sit.
  2. They can stick better by using some Micro Set.
  3. If they’re old, or thin, or homemade, or you just want some extra insurance that they won’t tear, brush some Liquid Decal Film on to the decal, let dry, then apply as normal.
  4. To get them to soften and conform to curved surfaces, use several applications of Micro Sol.
  5. Once the decal is the way you want it, seal with more Future.
  6. Then seal the whole model as normal using polyurethane varnish.

The above has been working for me for a couple of models. We’ll see how well it works over more broad applications.


Posted By on June 6, 2015

So, I haven’t updated this in a couple of days because I’ve been working on a playset for the kids in the backyard (more on this in a later post). So these pictures are a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, I did some airbrushing on the Master of the Ravenwing and the gunner.

First, I masked with silly putty:

Then I painted the heavy bolter red and did a power sword fade:

Finally, since I was airbrushing, I did a base coat on some marines with heavy weapons and a chaplain with a jetpack (whom I painted black after I took this picture).

It looks a little splotchy because I thinned the paint a little bit much through the airbrush. I’m still working at getting the consistency right.

It also occurred to me that I’m going to be painting a lot of big stuff (tanks, terrain, lots of troops) and varnishing them all by hand is going to be a royal pain. So, I took some terrain I’d been using as airbrushing test platforms (planets for space games) and tried airbrushing on the varnish. SUCCESS! Specifically, Jo Sonja’s Matte Varnish worked through a Badger 350, medium needle, at 40PSI (which is what I use to prime stuff). It worked either thinned or not, and the unthinned likely resulted in a thicker coat, so I’ll be doing that from now on. Of note is that it’s very important to thoroughly flush the airbrush between each cup refill and at the very end, because if this stuff dries in the airbrush it’s going to be a bear to get out.