The Spam Battle – Part Three

My experiment with re-enabling comments was short and pointless.

I learned from my Facebook friends that they could not figure out how to leave a comment. Apparently the link below each recent post that says “Share Your Thoughts” was not obvious enough!

About two days ago, I received a WordPress email asking me to moderate a comment. The first comment since I deleted all the spam! But it was a piece of spam…

So I am back to square one. I don’t know how many – if any at all – read these posts and as much as I would like to interact with readers, it doesn’t seem likely.

So Long 2017!

Well, the world survived the first year of President Orange Dumbfuck. For the sake of my American friends and the rest of the world, I certainly hope that early 2018 sees special counsel Robert Mueller file charges of treason. Cheeto Hitler has done incalculable damage to the United States; it will be interesting to see if their system of checks and balances can self-correct.

The only good thing to come from this presidency is the exposure of the hypocrisy of evangelical Christianity. Much (but not all) of this crowd supports the Painted Shit-Stain in the White House. The USA is moving on culturally and leaving these fossils behind though. I am hoping that this is their death throes.

imageI’ll aim to spend today building my last – for now – Lego Architecture model. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. For the time being, I have all of the Architecture sets.

Intriguingly, I snipped this image from the Lego website navigation menu. This shows a skyline set – Shanghai I think – that is not available. This might be coming soon.

I will keep my eyes peeled for that.

I did acquire the Lego Creator set for Big Ben to compliment the Architecture set. This a huge set and I think it will make for a wonderful juxtaposition.

In just a few hours time, LightWave 2018 will be available! I cannot wait to start playing with it and learning the new physically-based rendering system. I’m really hoping that it makes for a seamless transition between Allegorithmic Substance and LightWave.

I had a new boss start during 2017 and I enjoy working with her. Hopefully 2018 sees some solid improvements with my employment. The DBA team works well together and Elena is a champion manager.

Lastly, Photoshop World 2018 is coming along with the 41st FFRF National Convention in San Francisco. There is much to look forward to.

R.I.P. Narelle

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.

December 3, 2017 Photowalk

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

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

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!

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

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.

R.I.P. Gord Downie (1964 – 2017)

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

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

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

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

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

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…

The Spam Battle

I have been posting to this blog for several years now. Almost immediately, I turned off the commenting option. I had a few comments from friends and family (notably my now ex-cousin-in-law…if that is such a thing) – I don’t know if I have regular readers and I do want to engage with them if they are out there.

But for the spam…

It is the bane of the internet. We’ll never be free of it.

imageUnfortunately, turning off the comments did nothing to stop the spam – it just hides it. On the WordPress Administrator site, my comments section is still plugged up with garbage that I have to manually delete.

There are only seven spams as I write this post because I recently deleted everything. But they trickle-in at a steady rate of a few every day.

What I noticed is that they are all attached to the same blog post. It has been about 2000 pieces of spam now. All on one post. I had written this post back on June 14, 2015 to explain one of my frequent absences from posting. The previous post was on May 24th about the gradual recovery from the flooding in North Texas.

I have decided to see what will happen to the spamming when I delete the June 14th excusing post. Deleting this post won’t change the story of my life as documented. My guess is, the spam gets tied to a new post – and probably one that I care about and won’t want to delete.

We’ll see.

If there is a way to stop comment spam entirely, I’d love to learn it. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to learn the intricacies of WordPress on my own.

A Visit To Grove Cemetery

Yesterday I paid another visit to my grandmother. She was in wonderfully high spirits – I love visits like that. My mother was able to come along with me.

After we took grandma down to the nursing home cafeteria for her lunch, we travelled over to a tea room in downtown Dundas. Mom had planned to meet a friend of hers there. After a few cups of Earl Grey, I excused myself. Grandpa's Grave SiteI wandered over to Dundas Driving Park – I used to play there as a little kid when we lived at grandma’s place. A small bluff separates the park from Grove Cemetery; so I set out to find my grandfather’s final resting place.

It has been about 30 years since I visited here. Yet my memory did not fail me and I quickly found his plot. My heart sank a little when I saw how unkempt it was.

I managed some impromptu trimming and sweeping with my hands, but I wish that I had brought proper tools. I will do that next time.

I never met grandpa. He died while my family was still living in Australia.

As you can tell, my grandfather – among other things – was an actor. We Garstins have a respectable lineage there. My great-great-great uncle Lionel Belmore played the town burgomaster in the movie Frankenstein with Boris Karloff.

Grandpa was a founding member of Dundas Little Theatre. Their performance stage is named in his honour.

Grove Cemetery BenchTo my shame, I have never seen one of their productions. So I intend to remedy that in the near future.

An odd melancholy had settled over me. Even though I had my camera with me (only the 50mm Prime lens though), I found myself hesitant to take many photos.

This bench could not be passed up though. Just like the half-submerged picnic table at Devil’s Lake State Park, I knew that this would make a great black & white image.

It won’t be another three decades before I return here.