The Art of something something dark side….

This is just a little note to mark my progress and thoughts.

I’ve been reading Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking. It’s long overdue as I remember watching her TEDtalk when it first came out 4 years ago and having my mind somewhat blown by it.

And now that I’m 43% through the book (thank you Kindle) I’ve started taking the time to take stock of myself, the things I have done, what I’ve participated in, and the things I have created, some of which featured on this blog that changes theme and layout like once a month.
I asked late last night, when my brain is probably at its most mushy, essentially what makes an artist, and if you don’t do anything original or just rehash things, are you still an artist? I could probably count myself as an artisan, according to my friend Martijn, and he’s probably right. I love working with my hands, I love making things, finding something terribly obscure or massively popular online, acquiring the components and putting it together.

I would like to be an artist. I would like to be a lot of things. Voice actor, engineer, astronaut (the 10 year old inside me never leaves), writer and entertainer. There are so many things I want to do and be, but never manage to be one at any given time.

I’m Dutch, I build robots, D&D cases, and am a BDSM enthusiast.

Hi, I’m Dutch, and that’s my self sufficient farm in a container, and tomorrow I’m writing about transferring our brains in to computers.

What’s that? Sorry, I can’t. I’m sitting at home playing with Lego before managing my friends website. Why yes, that is Atomic Girl.

Variety is the spice of life, but shit it can be inconsistent.

I’m not sure if I’m an artist or not. Maybe I shouldn’t care about it, but it helps to know for certain when I do blog posts, marketing myself, self branding and trying to figure out what to do in this world (not my place in the world though).

 

Treading the boards

Many years ago, my uncle asked if I want to play the part of a peasant boy getting interrogated by some Parliamentarians as part of a historic tour of Colchester. Living history type scenes right? From there I ended up doing various plays, Shakespeare in the park, and going on to get some training in theatre at the local college. Two years and I got my BTEC diploma, and never set foot on the stage since.

I couldn’t tell you why I haven’t, even now. Maybe acting lost its appeal for me, maybe I got distracted, or maybe I was just a teenager unable to settle on anything (which isn’t a bad thing). What I can tell you that I’m getting that itch again, but the idea of being in front of dozens to thousands isn’t overly appealing, and after having done youtube for a spell, I’m more inclined to the aspect of doing a few hours work, then moving on, rather than repeating the same thing over and over and over. Plus, the acting scene around these parts leaves something to be desired of. It’s not L.A., it’s not the West End, and I’d be hard pressed to find anyone RADA trained in this town.

However on that note, something that has sparked a little flame of curiosity within me is voice acting.

This probably stems from having watched Critical Role so much over the past year, and becoming more aware of the industry in L.A. because of Nerdist and Geek & Sundry. But also just taking a moment to look at credits for cartoons and games, listening to All Work No Play by Liam O’Brien and Sam Riegel. But what I think really pushed my curiosity is listening to Rob Paulsen, famed for his work as Yakko in the Animaniacs. I wonder if he leaves out the bad stuff on purpose, probably because you should always focus on the good shit in your life, but he paints a picture of hard work and the reward of seeing a job well done come to completion. I definitely recommend listening to his podcast Talking Toons.

I remember many years ago with the advent of realistic CGI, articles about actors being entirely replaced by computers, and though that hasn’t come true, what has happened is a whole new field has rapidly expanded in the form of gaming. All those cut scenes, mini movies, and extras? They still need voicing, and some need motion capture.

At the moment this is just me looking at my options, but I do have fond memories of performing, of being on the stage, reading lines, expressing myself or the characters I played. Maybe it’s time to tread the boards again. Or at the very least the microphone.

Banhammer

Time to log out

This post first appeared on Toy Soldiers Unite, but I thought I’d add it to my own site for posterity’s sake. Go enlist with the Army of Toy Soldiers now!

Greetings comrades!

Since Commander JET tapped my shoulder to join her as Administrator of Toy Soldiers Unite and leader of the Army, 6 almost 7 years ago, I have had the honor and privilege to be in a position that allowed me an unobstructed view of the Army of Toy Soldiers.

Together, you and I, we’ve seen the site and Army rebuild and focus its vision both outward and inward.
We’ve created music that tingles the senses, and videos to make us giggle and laugh.
We’ve written and read stories that made us happy, sad, angry and curious.
When the call came to aid others in our own unique way, we answered in the form of the Gaming Mammoth, and donated thousands over the years to worthy causes.
And I’ve witnessed friendships forged, passions kindled, and love blossom among the community.

And it’s at this time I’ve decided to take my leave of the Administration position, and leave TSU and the Army of Toy Soldiers in the safe and somewhat hairy hands of Engineer Airhead. It is thanks to him that no disasters have befallen the site, and features such as the ID Generator, The Toy Soldier Map and The Divisions interface were created. Engineer Airhead is also responsible for the beginnings of the annual gaming marathon.
He has a drive and focus that I envy, and I know he’ll do all of you proud as Leader of the Army of Toy Soldiers and Administrator.

As those Administrators before me, I’m going to continue with the ideals of the Toy Soldiers, and pursue my own personal Utopian Playland.
I’m not entirely certain yet in what form that’ll be. A local maker, creating items and goods for people with an appreciation for the weird and wonderful. The host of a cyberpunk show, exploring the reality we find ourselves in. Or perhaps guiding adventurers through science fiction and fantasy realities. It could be all three and more.

What I do know is that without the Army of Toy Soldiers, this sterling community of people from across the globe, I would not be the man I am today, and I owe you all a deep debt of gratitude. Thank you, comrades, for the conversations, the adventures, the relationships, the fun, and the shenanigans. You have inspired me in more ways than I can count, and I hope I can inspire you in return.

My name is Dutch Barracuda, and I will always be a Toy Soldier.

You can find me everywhere on the internet: FacebookTwitterInstagramDutchBarracuda.com – Discord: DutchBarracuda#5602
Most likely you’ll find me in other places too, but I’ll let you figure that out yourself.

Why you need a VPN

Why should I get a VPN?

There are a myriad of reasons why you should get a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Getting passed country-restrictions on Youtube and Netflix is nice, but more seriously, your browsing history is being analyzed by your service provider and stored by governments as part of a dragnet for the benefit of ‘our national security’. Anyone with a modest knowledge of how the internet works, knows that is utter bullshit.

So what is a VPN?

A VPN in its simplest form is a tunnel between your computer to an exit point somewhere else in the world. Your data is encrypted the instant it leaves your device, goes through the VPN providers servers, and exits at a server anonymously. Your government and internet service provider are unable to decrypt your data, and can’t determine what sites you are visiting.
The majority of VPN providers also allow the option of selecting what country your exit node is in. This will be the IP address a website determines your using. Facebook might think I’m actually in Japan, or Youtube sees I have a German address.

How do I set up a VPN

First you need to choose a provider. This is a subscription based service, so you pay monthly or yearly. There are free VPN’s as well, but they are slow and untrustworthy.

Provider IP Addresses Locations Sessions P2P Monthly
NordVPN
NordVPN
80
61 Countries
6 Yes $5.75
ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN
10000 145
94 Countries
3 Yes $8.32
Hide My Ass
Hide My Ass
125499 280
210 Countries
2 No $4.99
VyprVPN
VyprVPN
200000 74
65 Countries
Up to 5 Yes $5.00
PureVPN
PureVPN
88000 180
141 Countries
5 Some $3.25
Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access
3272 35
25 Countries
5 Yes $3.33
SaferVPN
SaferVPN
5000 400
34 Countries
3 No $3.49
SlickVPN
SlickVPN
142
46 Countries
Yes $4.00
StrongVPN
StrongVPN
45
21 Countries
1 Yes $5.83
Tunnel Bear
Tunnel Bear
50000 20 Countries 5 $4.99

 

My personal preference has always been for Private Internet Access which has installers for all devices and operating systems and allows me to use 5 different devices at once. Good for sharing with your family.

Now you’ve selected a VPN, get a subscription, pay via paypal or bitcoin or credit card, and download the installer for your operating system or device. If you’re very familar with your OS, you can also manually set your device to use the VPN, and most of them will provide instructions on how to do so.

Words of advice

If you’re aiming to be entirely untrackable and anonymous on the internet, just having a VPN wont cut it. You need to adjust your behaviour and habits altogether. Make Tor Browser your default browser, and avoid connecting to social media accounts. Keep your firewall and anti-virus up to date and disable any tracking services. Avoid using Google and instead use an anonymous search engine like DuckDuckGo.

And at the end of the day, work on the assumption that someone is ALWAYS watching you. Maybe even me.

 

Laser Cutter Fundraising Update

It’s been rather quiet on my end in regards to the laser cutter. Summer holidays are over, I’m preparing for another year at the Open University.
Progress towards the £1000 goal for the laser cutter has been slow, and almost went in reverse a few times due to bills and whatnot.

I’m changing gears on the project though, as it’s still my intention to acquire a laser cutter to create projects and art with, but no longer will I be acquiring one of the standard 50 watt Chinese cutters which would’ve required a lot of modding.

Recently, a friend of mine shared a link with me to Endurance Lasers, whom I remember from a few years back. They made a laser diode called L-Cheapo that just clipped onto almost any 3D printer to do engraving. Originally it was only 2 watts or so, so no good for cutting wood at the time.

They’ve been ramping up since then, and recently released an 8 Watt laser diode capable of cutting between 8 mm and 10 mm of plywood. And although we’re talking about a diode that just clips on, rather than an entire machine, at $595 it’s significantly cheaper since I wont require a big steel box as is the case with the Chinese CO2 lasers.
Hell I could grab some extruded aluminium and knock the rest of the machine together myself for less than £200.

There are several pros to this change of plan.

  • No longer need to worry about expensive import and shipping fees.
  • It’s modular, so if I got or built a 3D printer, I’m got a multi-function machine.
  • Even without 3D printing, I can customize the build area to my own needs, like below my desk (with suitable extraction fans)
  • Quieter. Much much quieter.
  • Cheaper to replace.
  • 48 hours continuous on-time (If Endurance are to be trusted, and I don’t see why not)

So yeah, if you still would like to support my efforts into laser cutting, please hit the Donate button. Due to some disappointing policies and actions against others, I’ll no longer be using GoFundMe. Instead, I’m just using good old fashioned paypal.

Donate

Previous Post on the Laser Cutting Fundraiser

Burning Man or Bust

bculliton0 / Pixabay

For the longest of times I’ve been fascinated by the event known as Burning Man.
It’s an unbelievably unique event that takes place every year in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. That’s right. A desert. Or to be more exact, playa.

Every year, 70,000 people descend upon this lifeless area, and turn it into actual city, with it’s own frigging airport no less.

And for a whole week it’s a party, a spiritual experience, an art exhibition and a mind altering phenomenon that is even attended by Silicon Valley types like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg (not a fan of him).

I honestly don’t even know where to begin with Burning Man, I haven’t been yet. Without a doubt I want to experience it, I want to meet the people from every walk of life that come together. It would be easy to dismiss it as simply a hippy event, with drugs shared freely and free-love and all that, but I can assure you it isn’t.

From what I’ve been told the atmosphere generated is common to many group events that evoke a sense of togetherness and mutual love for something. Celebrating your football teams win with the rest of the fans, gushing over a movie with friends, cosplay meetups, weddings and honeymoons. Just imagine those moments of pure ecstasy and joy you feel during times like that, amp it up to eleven, and then extend it from just a few hours to a whole week.

Next year, 2018, I’m making it my goal to go, and hopefully I wont be going alone as there are several friends and loved ones who wish to experience what Burning Man has to offer as well.

Admittedly it’s not cheap. Tickets cost between $490 to $1200, and that’s just entrance. You still have to travel there, not to mention the supplies you’re going to require for staying in a lifeless desert for a whole week. Shelter, food, water, (yes you need to bring your own water), clothing, etc.

And you can’t just dump that shit when you’re done, as one of the founding principles of Burning Man is to leave NO TRACE. So when it’s all over you leave with all your rubbish and nothing should be left behind other than tire tracks on the ground.

What If? A stream setup idea

pashminu / Pixabay

Tonight my mind has decided to focus on a What If scenario.

And this What If scenario entails, “What if I was setting up a multi-camera stream for a mini-studio like game to be broadcast?” which led to me thinking of particular elements required.

  • Multiple cameras of decent quality. USB, HDMI, and even SDI.
  • How to capture at least 3 different cameras.
  • Software required.
  • And the studio setup itself, props and table.

In the past year its become obvious that streaming has become a far more interactive method of talking with a community, or even building one. And then there’s the show that I’ve spent the last 6 months immersed in, Critical Role.

And while everyone is trying to figure out the creatures, the rolls, the stats and the characters, I’ve been utterly mundane and sat there thinking…. “How did they setup the cameras and microphones?”

Now, I’m by no means a media or production qualified individual, hell it’s not even a hobby. I got an entry model DSLR camera and even that I fuck up with. Nor have I any intention of going full studio quality as if I’m a production company.

But considering my budget, which is virtually nil, and the resources at my disposal, this is how I’d go about it if I were doing a Critical Role style stream.

First, get three Microsoft Lifecam Studio cameras and three half decent USB microphones. USB has a maximum length of 5 meters before the signal gives up, so the capture box or machine would probably have to be under the table, which leads to the next part.

The table has to be square, with one corner cut off for the DM (rather like a baseball field?) and the players would be on two sides opposite, like an L shape. Opposite the two player sides would be a Lifecam and microphone aimed at them. In the centre of the L, would be the third Lifecam aimed at the DM.

So, everyone can see the players, the DM, the cameras and microphones are hidden, etc.

Now, assuming this is a one man crew situation, the DM could have the PC setup beside him allowing him control of the stream, the chat, etc.

And that’s as far as my brain has gotten on this. I can’t tell you what inspired my current train of thought, as it may be for a project in the future or not. Usually saying that is enough to doom it, like many others, but we’ll see.

D&D Case 5

D&D Cases – Second Batch

I’ve made a new batch of Dungeons & Dragons Cases.
Each one is made by myself, cut, glued, screwed and painted or stained.
You can buy one for £50. I’ve put a lot of work into these, and it’s part of me raising funds for a laser cutter so I can create even more awesome cases for you table top adventurers.

Send me a message with the case you’d like, and I can get it shipped out to you this very week. I’ll let you know how much it’ll cost to ship.

All D&D cases come with a pregenerated character sheet at level 1, and a set of polyhedral dice so you can get started straight away.

If you’d like to donate a small amount to the fundraiser to get a laser cutter, please head on over to: https://www.gofundme.com/help-us-get-a-frickin-laser

Fundraising for a Frickin Laser Cutter

Fundraising for a laser cutter

Fundraising for a Frickin Laser Cutter

Lasers are cool.

Lasers that cut things are even cooler.

After discussion at home, and a not insignificant amount of research, we’ve decided we want to acquire a laser cutter for us to create magnificent pieces with. Ranging from art, toys, cases, boxes, gadgets and more, we want to build and make so much it’s ridiculous.

For Roz, my permanent roommate, it’s an opportunity to experiment and develop a new way for her to showcase her work and love of cephalopods.

For myself it’ll allow me not only to create finer and more intricate custom made dungeons & dragons cases, but also dice towers, tokens, toys and games. An added bonus would be to create other gadgets and machines like CNC routers, 3D printers, and even robots (oh I have plans)

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More importantly, it’d also allow an opportunity for us to sell our creations to the masses, and accept commissions. Either online, or via local markets and events. We do live in a tourist town after all, so customized gifts of Clacton in such a unique style would definitely be a winner.

So what do we need? The laser cutter.50w Laser Cutter
After having spent a lot of time reading and talking to people, we’ve settled on an imported 50W laser cutter that’ll have a build area of 300mm x 500mm. About A3 size which’d allow some pretty great cuts. Imported laser cutters from China come with their risks, however I’ve learned so long as you are prepared to do modifications, which I am, it should work out alright. Things like unaligned mirrors, dodgy build beds, poor ventilation, loose wiring are common. Factoring in the costs of replacements and consumables, importing from China still remains significantly cheaper than buying from the US or UK.

What’s the fundraising goal? £1000 GBP, which is roughly $1270 USD at time of writing.

This isn’t something new, it’s not groundbreaking, and it’s not a product, so this isn’t a kickstarter. However, anyone who donates over £50 if they want, I will add to a waiting list to receive one of my tabletop RPG cases, created with the laser cutter and customized in some form. There isn’t a time limit on this fundraiser, so it might take a while.

If you’d like to lend us a hand with this, and help us get started in creating magnificent art, intricate designs, mysterious cases, tourist knick knacks, or just love frigging lasers, please hit this big donate button which’ll allow you to donate via Paypal.




Current total: £300
Goal: £1000

However don’t feel terrible if you can’t donate. The next best thing is to share this fundraiser with as many people as possible, especially creators, artists, makers, hackers, and benevolent yet mysterious financial backers. It is appreciated just as much.