Garstor's World, My realm of 3D art, LEGO and atheism

R.I.P. Narelle

Posted on Tuesday, December 12th, 2017 at 5:45 AM in Personal by Garstor

This day has been on the horizon for some time.

I received news from my dad this morning. My sister-in-law Narelle Helsemans is at peace after a long and brave struggle against cancer.

My thoughts are with her husband Mark and their children Allie and Paige. I wish I could be there for them instead of being half-a-world away.

The Women Of NASA Lego Set

Posted on Thursday, December 7th, 2017 at 5:33 PM in Lego by Garstor

Women Of NASAI got way ahead of myself this time. Although this set suffered a shipping delay, once it arrived here two days ago, I built it right away. I have yet to build the new Guggenheim Museum or the Arc de Triomphe model!

But I could hardly help myself. I’m a space geek as well as a Lego geek. The idea of this set is a really wonderful one too.

I am sincerely hoping that Lego produces more commemorative sets like this. I love the idea of honouring pioneers in various fields or the unsung heroes that few people know about.

December 3, 2017 Photowalk

Posted on Tuesday, December 5th, 2017 at 8:23 PM in Personal, Photoshop by Garstor

On Sunday – through a thick fog and low, grey clouds – I made my way to Toronto’s Casa Loma district. This is at the intersection of Spadina Road and Davenport Road. There is small bluff here that marked the shores of the ancient Lake Iroquois. Yep, most of what became the city of Toronto was underwater after the last ice age.

Casa Loma 01The district is named for the castle of the same name. Casa Loma was built in 1914 by the financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt. It is an impressive structure, to be sure, but it had to live up to the man himself.

Unfortunately, the overcast sky really took the wind from my sails. I also found the property to be very constrictive; roads and other houses close by made it a challenge to get decent photos.

I had to use my kit lens at 18-25mm and it was difficult finding good angles. Oddly, my first photo here is probably the one that turned out best. Most of the others will likely serve as reference material for 3D models.

Jean Sibelius ParkOn my way back home, I found Jean Sibelius Park.

It is a tiny park. There are a few climbing contraptions and swings for neighbourhood kids and some picnic tables scattered around the trees.

Of course, the monument to the composer demanded a picture!

Currently, I only have one other photograph from Sunday. Scroll to the bottom of my Toronto Flickr album for one of my first attempts at street photography. The subjects were pre-occupied and did not notice my quick snap of them enjoying the park and each other!

Hopefully my creative mojo is returning.

My Endoscopy

Posted on Thursday, November 30th, 2017 at 5:54 PM in Personal by Garstor

I have not had much hospital interaction in my life. In high school, I had minor out-patient surgery to fix ingrown toenails. Then I worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital as part of the Y2K team when I was in college.

Yesterday, I was at the William Osler Health Center in North Etobicoke for an endoscope exam. I’ve previously written about the acid reflux issues that I have had for years; this was to see what was going on.

It was a series of firsts for me. I’ve never had an intravenous needle before – alright, that one is a stretch since I used to donate blood and platelets frequently. But in my mind these are two different things for some reason. The IV was to administer the sedative Propofol. Being sedated – even mildly like this – was definitely a new experience.

Honestly, I wish there was more that I could write about it. I was laying on my side on the gurney. The nurse provided a mouthpiece for me to bite on that would allow the doctor to insert the endoscope. Then I was suddenly in the recovery room. Just like that; light switch off, light switch back on.

Propofol definitely lives up to its nickname, “milk of amnesia.”

I did not feel the least bit groggy or dazed. My mother had accompanied me to assist with the trip back home, but she didn’t need to. Ah well, it was nice to see her again.

There is a follow-up with the doctor in a few weeks. All I learned is that my esophagus has become inflamed.

Fortunately, I have switched to decaffeinated Tim Horton’s coffee. That has provided at least a 90% improvement with the reflux. I should still lose weight as well; but I cannot seem to get motivated in that department.

Still Struggling To Get My Creativity Back

Posted on Sunday, November 19th, 2017 at 4:49 PM in Personal, Ray-Tracing by Garstor

I am on-call this week and tomorrow we start the annual business freeze. Hopefully that leads to some quiet time; because the last two weeks have been a non-stop rush of changes and updates before the freeze hits.

Except for a little bit of playing around with World Machine, I have not touched any 3D or digital art application. My camera is sitting patiently in the camera bag – unused since getting that new bag weeks back.

I’ve also been feeling a little bit bummed out creatively speaking.

I realized a terrible mistake in my bell tower model and that has taken the wind from my sails for working on it. I created three rooms inside the tower structure and the aim was to have them connected via staircases climbing to the top belfry area. A little over a month ago, I decided to start exploring the modeling of the stairs – this made the mistake painfully obvious to me.

tower_mistakeThe rooms are ridiculously large when considering human-scale.

The orange lines are the geometry for the rooms and the black lines are the geometry for the tower. The grid is 1 meter. So the tower is 8 meters on each side and the rooms are about 6.25 meters on a side. The height for each room is about 7.5 meters.

It is the height that is causing the problem. That is over 24 feet! That would be fine for a huge building; but it causes problems in this confined space.

Modeling stairs fit for human legs means coming up with a switch-back or spiral design. So far, I have not found a way to make these stairs fit nicely inside. I would have to fill the room with stairs to make this work!

Just make the rooms shorter! Add a fourth room if necessary! Yes, I thought of that too.

The problem there are the window openings. I’ve carefully lined up the tower and room geometry for that. Changing the room height would mean re-doing the window openings completely. I suppose it may yet come to that if I cannot think of a better idea.

Hopefully I can get my creative juices flowing again soon. Not just for this problem but for getting out and just making stuff – pictures, landscapes, art, anything!

Bravo Australia!

Posted on Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 at 7:42 AM in News, Personal by Garstor

I was very pleased to learn last night that Australians overwhelmingly voted for marriage equality. Excellent!

Every state and territory with the exception of New South Wales voted more than 60% “Yes.” New South Wales was just below the 60% mark. So love wins!

As I understand it, this result still does not make any binding laws. However, hopefully it sends a clear message to politicians that their careers will be in jeopardy if they fail to pass laws in favour of equality.

Advance Australia Fair!

A Bit Of Radio Silence

Posted on Saturday, November 11th, 2017 at 7:21 PM in Personal by Garstor

I haven’t had much time to post this week.

Things are getting crazy at work as we prepare to enter the holiday shopping season – obviously an important time for payment processing. Before the annual freeze-period, we’re pushing to get updates in place.

I bought a huge 8 TB external USB drive. I’ve been very busy backing up all my assorted digital assets from the 3D machine and this laptop. That took several days to complete but I hope that future passes will complete much more quickly. I had to keep the 3D machine shutdown during this time since I ran out of power sockets to power everything!

New Lego Architecture sets are here! The new Solomon Guggenheim Museum and the Arc de Triomphe are still in their boxes. I’ll try to start working on one tomorrow.

Southern Ontario got it’s first real chill-snap of the winter this week. It will get colder of course but the first one is usually still a shock to the system.

Finally, I’ll be turning on the comments feature here after many years. The comment spam has not returned for weeks now. I’ll switch them off again if the spam returns though. Hopefully I can have some interaction with readers.

PASS Summit 2017

Posted on Sunday, November 5th, 2017 at 6:23 AM in SQL Server, Travel by Garstor

Last week I was back in Seattle – I love that city! – for the PASS Summit. I’ve only been to two PASS Summit’s and at the first one, I begged Microsoft to hire me as a full-time employee. Imagine my shock when they did!

This time, I am shocked for a different reason. SQL Server 2017.

There is just so much awesome-sauce packed into this release; it is a challenge to know where to begin. A new release cycle is a good beginning. Microsoft has been on a two-year-major-release cycle for a long time now. It stretches back to SQL Server 2008 R2 in 2010. Now Service Packs are going away and Cumulative Updates will be monthly. I suspect we’ll see more aggressive major releases too.

Many people are salivating that SQL Server will run on Linux now. I already stated that I am thrilled to see the best database engine on the planet start eating Oracle’s lunch. But speaking professionally, this doesn’t blow my skirt up – I am a Windows man through and through.

Two of the most exciting advances involve Adaptive Query Processing. Now a compiled execution plan can have multiple paths that change dynamically at runtime. A join could be handled by a nested loop or a hash match depending on the number of rows being processed. Memory grants that are too large or too small can also change between executions. Both of these do not require recompiling the execution plan. This is incredible.

Availability Groups can now be built without a Windows Failover Cluster. This removes the high availability feature but it allows for a hot copy of data. Reporting queries can use the copy and take pressure away from the primary replica.

Columnstore Indexes, Query Store and In-Memory OLTP keep getting better. Smaller existing features and knobs are tweaked as well. SQL Server 2017 has me really excited.

Last, but not least, I was able to meet-up with former Microsoft colleagues. Adam, Rohit, Bob, Ajay and Tejas – it was great to see all of you again.

Seattle & The PASS Conference

Posted on Tuesday, October 31st, 2017 at 5:25 AM in SQL Server, Travel by Garstor

Later today, I’ll be headed out to Seattle, Washington – courtesy of my employer. I’ve been to Seattle several times and once seriously considered moving there.

This trip is something of a full-circle for me, one of my first visits to the Emerald City was to attend the PASS Conference. I paid for the conference out of my own pocket and I think that was a major influence to Microsoft hiring me full-time rather than remain a contractor in Mississauga. That – in turn – led to me moving to Texas for nearly eight years.

Now I am returning to the Pacific Northwest for PASS 2017.

Much has changed with SQL Server since I began my career. SQL Server 2000 was the version where the industry started to take serious notice of the product. It has only grown since then. The release of SQL Server 2017 earlier this month is opening up the Linux market.

I am excited to see my favourite database eat more of Oracle’s lunch!

World Machine, Meet OctaneRender!

Posted on Sunday, October 22nd, 2017 at 9:05 AM in Ray-Tracing by Garstor

I have owned OctaneRender for several years now. But it has sat on my computer almost totally untouched because I have not committed the time to learn its nuances. There is an introductory course at Liberty 3D for using the Lightwave Octane Plug-in. It is a good set of lessons and delivered by a great teacher; but it just gets your feet wet and doesn’t go quite far enough.

On the World Machine Facebook group, a user posted a short video explaining his workflow getting World Machine output into the standalone Octane Render. That was incredibly helpful and give me the kick that I needed to try things out.

World Machine & Octane RenderHere are my first results.

The terrain mesh and texturing images came from World Machine. I made use of the excellent WM plug-in Quadspinner GeoGlyph 2.0 as well as the texturing macro ProColor.

The sky and clouds are an HDRi image that I composited in with Photoshop. OctaneRender supports including an HDRi environment but I was not happy with my still novice results.

I can’t wait to see what else I create as I learn more about OctaneRender. I would love to include scattered instances of other meshes – rocks, boulders, trees, grass and the like.

If I do say so myself, this makes a pretty damn cool desktop background.

R.I.P. Gord Downie (1964 – 2017)

Posted on Saturday, October 21st, 2017 at 8:56 AM in Entertainment, News, Personal by Garstor

On Tuesday, The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie succumbed to the terminal brain tumour that he was diagnosed with last year.

I’ve spent the rest of the week processing this and listening to The Hip constantly. Much of Canada is still mourning this collective loss. Downie’s music and poetry has a way of vibrating the Canadian nerve.

He will be missed deeply.

New Camera Bag

Posted on Thursday, October 19th, 2017 at 5:25 AM in Personal by Garstor

In a recent post, I mentioned a new Manfrotto camera bag.

Well that did not last long. I quickly realized during the High Park photo-walk that this bag would not suit my purposes. The way its zippers opened to access the gear made it prone to things falling out. Not a good scenario!

Fortunately, Henry’s let me exchange the bag for a different one. I bought a Cameron BP 350 AW. This should be much better – I can’t wait until I can take it out on another photo-walk.

U.S. Capitol Building Model Finished

Posted on Monday, October 16th, 2017 at 6:19 PM in Lego, Personal by Garstor

US Capitol 2I completed the model on Friday night, ahead of an expected busy weekend.

But I’m only getting to writing this now.

In spite of its size, it was a fairly simple model to build. The symmetric nature of the structure leant itself to fast building. The slowest aspect to the build was the large number of 1×1 flat pieces making up the surrounding property and parts of the walls.

The central dome can be removed. Beneath it is a nice representation of the National Statuary Hall. That’s a nice touch of detail I think.

I’ll have to buy the remaining two Lego Architecture sets soon.

Photowalk October 14, 2017 – High Park

Posted on Sunday, October 15th, 2017 at 12:00 PM in Personal, Photoshop by Garstor

imageYesterday was a drizzly, foggy day with a heavy cloud cover over the city. But I was determined to have another photo-walk and I have long wanted to go to High Park.

So that’s what I did.

The Lambton bus route stops outside my apartment and goes to High Park Station. Very convenient! I packed up my tripod and gear (in my new Manfrotto camera bag) and set out into the misty weather.

High Park is certainly no Central Park; but it is big enough that you can get away from the sounds of the city. I stayed along the western edge of the park – the Wendigo Creek and Grenadier Pond that it feeds. So I have plenty more exploring of this place to do in the future.

I added these photos to my Toronto, Ontario Flickr album.

Please be aware that Flickr sorts album photos in ascending chronological order. You will have to scroll down to see the photos starting with “Waterfall 3.” Lack of photo order is one of the mild annoyances with Flickr.

Crosby 2I think this photo is one of my favourites. I met Crosby and her owner just after arriving at the park at Bloor and Quebec streets.

Although I am not a dog fan, Crosby was a beautiful and energetic beast who loved chasing her orange ball (or gnawing on a fallen tree branch). She is a 3-year old chocolate lab and is very friendly.

I spoke with her owner for a little while and he gave me permission to take some photos. Unfortunately, most of the shots of Crosby running with her ball did not turn out. I must have missed a setting and did not get an adequate shutter speed.

Next visit, I will go to Keele subway station and enter the park from the northeastern corner.

A Health Update

Posted on Saturday, October 14th, 2017 at 5:47 AM in Fitness, Personal by Garstor

On Tuesday I had a consultation with a gastroenterologist. I have long suffered from acid reflux; there are times at night when I am trying to sleep that it becomes intolerable.

I used to eat Tums or Rolaids like candy. Although there is an over-the-counter antacid that usually relieves all the effects, I would prefer to understand and fix the root-cause. Unsurprisingly, the top item on the doctor’s list was to lose weight.

I’ve definitely packed on the pounds again after stopping the regular workouts I was doing in Texas. Once Josh had left Gold’s Gym, they had no quality trainers. After returning to Canada – I just didn’t go anywhere. Nor have I ridden my bicycle even once.

There is a Goodlife Fitness gym in the building where I work and I am signed up there. But it is hard to describe how I feel about it – it just doesn’t feel like a place that I want to work out at.

Life is hardly worth living after reading the lifestyle changes items from the doctor:

  • No chocolate
  • No peppermint
  • No alcohol
  • No caffeine
  • Nothing acidic (tomatoes, citrus juices)
  • Nothing spicy
  • Decreased fat
  • Eat smaller meals
  • Elevate head of bed about 6 inches
  • Lose weight
  • Stop smoking

Smoking is easy to stop when I already don’t do it. I’m not super-big on chocolate or peppermint either. I don’t drink a lot of booze; but I certainly don’t mind the occasional tipple.

Caffeine! Cruel fate! Why must thou mock me?

As it turns out, I had run out coffee last weekend. So I have not bought a new tin. I have broken down and bought the occasional beverage at Tim Horton’s.

There are no two ways to slice it. I really need to change-up my diet and exercise more with the goal of losing weight in mind.

The Spam Battle–Part Two

Posted on Friday, October 13th, 2017 at 4:54 AM in Personal by Garstor

It has been five days since I deleted the post that seemed to be attracting all the spam comments. So far, no new spam has arrived.

If things stay clear for a few more days, I will try to turn on commenting again.

The curious part of my brain now wants to know why that particular post was the “hole” by which the spammers could crawl in…

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