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

Archive for October, 2017

Seattle & The PASS Conference

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

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!

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

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)

Saturday, October 21st, 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

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

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

Monday, October 16th, 2017

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

Sunday, October 15th, 2017

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

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

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

Friday, October 13th, 2017

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…

1,032 Pieces Of Political Dysfunction

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

I finally started work on the U.S. Capitol Building model. I’ve had this set for a few months now but the Thanksgiving long weekend is what gave me the kick that I needed.

US_Capitol_progressThis is a huge set as far as Lego Architecture goes. I’m not sure if it is bigger than Robie House or not. Those two models are definitely the two largest in the series.

Although not an ideal location, I am typically building these at my small kitchen table. Usually, this table is reserved for my work laptop and monitor. And yes, I do often drop pieces on the floor.

Here is a cellphone shot of the progress thus far. Sorry about the overhead glare from the ceiling light.

The Spam Battle

Sunday, October 8th, 2017

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

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

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.

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