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

Archive for September, 2017

R.I.P. Hugh Hefner (1926–2017)

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

Farewell Mr. Hefner and thank-you for all your work.

Although I suspect that much of this news will surround Playboy and nude photography; I actually prefer to remember Hef’s work promoting and defending the First Amendment. His fighting against censorship laws and his promotion of feminism and same-sex rights have helped build the bulwark against theocracy in Western society.

Nudity aside, Playboy magazine did advance lifestyle and culture in new directions. It helped to get people thinking outside norms that were barely altered clones of past generations.

Hef will be missed. I hope that Playboy will carry on his legacy. The First Amendment must be defended constantly on many fronts.

Wisconsin–September 2017 Flickr Album

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

I have uploaded the first 48 images to my Wisconsin – September 2017 Flickr album.

It is likely that I may upload a few more photos over the next few days. I took over 360 photos; so even after removing the wheat from the chaff I still have plenty more material to work with.

Betty Lou Boat Tour 03Just about every single image went through adjustments with Topaz Labs Adjust and/or Detail. I hope that I didn’t go over the top with the post-processing though.

I arrived in Madison on Wednesday morning. My friends Dan and Kevin were already in town, so we started wandering. I was able to spend nearly two days with them before the 40th National FFRF Convention got underway.

Madison is a cool city. There is so much to see and do there for its size. Spending more time on the UW campus and at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens would have been nice. I expect to be back there in 2019 for the 42nd National Convention; so I will aim to make time then.

Wisconsin Dells 02If you have never been to Wisconsin before, I very strongly recommend the Wisconsin Dells river tour! It is so uplifting to see and to know that so many have worked hard to preserve the region (although not far away from the river there is a gob-smacking display of commercialism).

This photo is one of my favourites from The Dells. The rock outcroppings are one of the narrowest parts of the river and surprisingly also one of the deepest.

I definitely wish that I had been able to bring my tripod along. So many photos could have turned out even better that way. The tour guides do keep each group moving fairly quickly; so unfortunately one cannot spend hours ashore taking photos of this jaw-droppingly beautiful part of Wisconsin.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens 13I will close out with the Thai Temple at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. This amazing structure is gilt with gold leaf and was built without using any nails.

Re-reading A Song Of Ice & Fire

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

Since the next HBO season for Game Of Thrones might not air until 2019, I decided to re-read the books. Heck, maybe I’ll get lottery-win-lucky and George R. R. Martin will publish The Winds Of Winter in the mean time…

So I am digging back into A Game Of Thrones. I’m only about 87 pages in so far. Yet I am already struck by the number of differences between the books and the show. The biggest one that hit me was this:

Robert’s queen, Cersei Lannister, entered on foot with her younger children. The wheelhouse in which they had ridden, a huge double-decked carriage of oiled oak and gilded metal pulled by forty heavy draft horses, was too wide to pass through the castle gate.

The royal entourage on the show was impressive; but it did not have anything like that!

A Wiki Of Ice And Fire is an excellent resource for fans. In particular, the Chapter Summaries feature is wonderful.

Naturally, in my mind’s eye as I immerse myself in Westeros, I am seeing the actors from the show. Sean Bean is Eddard Stark to me. I just cannot see it any other way; but I don’t think that is a bad thing. I’m curious to see if I can build a vision from the books that replaces something on the show.

Madison, Wisconsin Trip & The 40th National FFRF Convention

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

As previously noted, last week I was back in Madison, Wisconsin for FFRF’s 40th National Convention. I arrived two days early so that I could spend some time with my friends Dan and Kevin.

Kevin is a Wisconsinite through and through. He suggested that we visit Devil’s Lake State Park, the Wisconsin Dells (Kevin made a 3D model inspired by The Dells) and the Botanical Gardens. All three were excellent choices and my only regret is that I did not have more time to spend with my friends exploring them.

Part of the Convention included the Betty Lou Boat Tours of Lake Mendota or Lake Monona. So I took a lot of photos. Quite possibly more photos that I have ever taken before. I am still sorting the wheat from the chaff and editing the RAW files for upload to Flickr. I will try to get that album created this weekend.

I am happy to report that the FFRF membership has seen a considerable spike upward this year. This is almost certainly caused by the election of Donald Trump. The White Evangelical segment continues to support this dumpster-fire of an administration because they have been promised arch-conservative judges being nominated to the bench. The obvious goal is to further restrict abortion and LGBTQ rights. This is a match made in hell if ever there was one.

At least people are pushing back against this. As the columnist Dan Savage likes to say, “Impeach the motherfucker already!”

Of course, the FFRF National Convention was also excellent. I practically gush about it every year since it feels so good to be surrounded by like-minded persons.

There was a solid line-up of speakers this year that I thoroughly enjoyed. Steven Pinker, Katha Pollitt, Maryam Namazie, young Kelly Helton (only 12 years old and already a firebrand for reason!) and Michelle Goldberg.

I kept myself on a leash this year and only bought one new t-shirt and one book – Katha Pollitt’s Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights.

Buckingham Palace Model Finished

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Buckingham Palace Model #1Yesterday, I finished up the remaining work on the Buckingham Palace Lego model.

As is my custom, I took a few photographs of the completed model and experimented a little bit with the lighting and lenses. The first photo was face-on and I used both Lume Cubes here.

I balanced a diffusion bulb modifier against a Lume Cube off to the photo’s right side. I only have a single mounting bracket for the Cubes, I’ll have to remedy that oversight. The second Cube used the mounting bracket to hold the hexagon grid and a flat diffusion modifier. That was probably redundant on my part, but that is what experimentation is for.

I used the kit lens, so I could only get f/5.6 focal depth. Aperture priority mode caused for a rather high ISO. Because of that, I had to use Topaz Labs De-noise to clean up the image noise.

Buckingham Palace Model #3I switched to the 50mm prime so that I could get a shallower focal depth and moved the camera higher. I specifically reduced the ISO value so that it would not be noisy.

There was only one Lume Cube plus the ambient room light illuminating this shot. I used Topaz Labs Lens Effects to create a heavy vignette.

My friend Cris suggested using card stock to create backdrops for these photos. That’s a good idea and one worth exploring. If nothing else, I could use them as mattes and do things like sky replacement in Photoshop.

Next up in my collection is the U.S. Capitol Building model. That will take quite a long time to build I expect; it appears to be nearly as large as the Robie House model.

I still need to buy the re-designed Guggenheim Museum and the new Arc De Triomphe models. I will probably end up getting those and finishing them before the Capitol.

40th FFRF National Convention Next Week

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Yesterday, I took Debug into Hamilton with me so that I could leave her at my mother’s place. Of course, I miss her already – but on Wednesday morning I am flying out to Madison, Wisconsin.

This will be my third visit to Mad-Town. It is a beautiful place. Friday is the start of the FFRF’s 40th National Convention. FFRF alternates the Convention between Madison and east coast / west coast locations. Last year was Pittsburgh and next year will be San Francisco.

I’ll have a day-and-a-half to hang out with Dan and Kevin first. Two brothers-in-3D and all-around cool cats. We met digitally in the Daz-3D forums and then met up in the real world when I first came to Madison. I’m looking forward to seeing them again.

imagePart of the Convention warm-up is a boat tour of the two lakes that frame the city of Madison.

Hopefully my photography skills have improved enough that I will be able to capture to some great views.

I am looking forward to seeing Holly and Mitch again. Mitch was honoured with the Freethinker Of The Year award at the Hartford Convention for their activism work in Honolulu. Holly is super-friendly and started talking to me and we hit it off immediately.

Mitch helped keep me sane regarding American politics – this was during the rise of Sarah Palin. He told me that generally speaking, Americans make the right choice on election day regardless of the lunacy of the candidacy lead-up. Clearly he needs to revise that view now! Smile with tongue out

A Prestigious Anniversary!

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Although today is my birthday, that is not the anniversary that I refer to.

Twenty years ago, I was laying in bed in my downtown Hamilton bachelor pad. The phone rang and I fully-expected it to be my mother wishing me a happy birthday. But it was not.

“This is Mohawk College Admissions. Are you still interested in the Software Engineering course?”

After getting fired from Proctor & Gamble (long story…), I signed up for college in spite of believing that I could not handle any post-secondary education. It had been an act of desperation. I have loved computers since the days of the Commodore-64 – I still remember the family trip to Maryland, to meet mom’s extended-family and dad buying our C-64 at Toys R Us (they had not expanded to Canada yet, the idea of an entire store just for toys blew my mind).

There was a waiting list for the 3-year Software Engineering program. So I assumed that I would have to return to a temporary employment agency for work.

YES!! I’ll be right there!”

With that, I was awake, showered and out the door to catch the bus up to Mohawk’s Fennell Campus to register. Although I would need to depend the student loan program – Socialism for the win – this would be one of those life-changing days.

It wasn’t smooth sailing by any means. The biggest challenge was the dot-com bust that happened immediately after I graduated. That made getting a starting job a real challenge.

But I had fallen in love with databases and after that bumpy start, I eventually got employed by Microsoft to support SQL Server. It has been an interesting ride ever since. I lived in Texas for 8 years. Bought and sold a house. Made many new, incredible friends. Have started traveling globally.

All because of that birthday-morning phone call…

Light Modifiers For The Lume Cubes

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

I should have written this yesterday. However, I visited my grandmother in Dundas and that ended up being very draining. Once I got home, I could barely deal with Facebook.

On Friday afternoon I zipped over to Henry’s to order some light modifiers for the Lume Cubes. I first bought the cubes, the store did not have any modifiers. Fortunately, this time they did! No waiting!

I picked up the Light-House cage housing. A Lume Cube fits inside this device and the light modifiers can be attached to it magnetically. It came with diffusion filters but I also bought the diffusion bulbs and the honeycomb filters. To top everything off, I added in a small tripod-like device with adjustable grip legs.

With that done, I’m adding in the latest Sevenstyles Photoshop Actions this afternoon. Lastly, I’ll pickup some of the bundles of HDR skies from HDR Maps.

Why throw around all this money? Well, it’s not that much really…but it is also my birthday gifts to myself!

Since this is a long-weekend, it is time to get back to some 3D modeling.

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