My Poor Little Debug – An Update

It has been a little rough financially since coming back from Photoshop World. I took advantage of a conference special and paid for next year’s PSW at a super-low price. Still, that was an unplanned expense. Normally these things would not bother me since life happens…

d1Debug’s on-going health issues really threw me a curve ball though. Her mouth sore (which is often scabbed over from her scratching at it) and her chest … growth or something, it has the texture of cauliflower … have not alleviated. So another vet check-up cost about $140. There was some pills to give her and the neck shield to stop her scratching. During this regimen, the other growth began to recur.

This growth is just above her lip with the sore. It is like a pinkish pea and about the same size. This had been removed a few months ago and a test declared it to be a benign tumour. Apparently, it has a high-likelihood of returning. Just so…

The initial sores have been declared allergic reactions by the vet. But allergic to what?

d2A $600 blood work test has revealed that Debug is allergic to beef and milk.

I already feed her kangaroo meat; but the kibble-like treats that I give her in the evening have a beef and a milk flavour. So no more snacks! She hates that and complains nightly about it.

Now I have a new medicinal regimen to follow for the next month. Hopefully, this will clear up the reaction and once the irritant is out of her system, she will be back to her old self.

Happy 242nd Birthday USA!

See the source imageYou don’t look a day over two centuries.

Last year, I added something to the effect of, “I hope you get to see 242.”

I tend to keep politics off this blog and I use the stinking, fetid cesspool of Facebook to share political things. But the Presidency of Donald “Cheeto Hitler” Trump really does imperil the United States and the world. The division between the Haves and the Have-Nots is deepening. Racists feel empowered to ooze out of their hiding places and back into society. His actions defy almost all reasoning and logic. The lies stagger the imagination.

I can only hope that the special investigation led by Robert Mueller ends up removing this jackass (and VP Pence and much of his sycophantic, lap-dog cabinet) from power. I really hope that the mid-term elections this November decisively sweep the Republican party from the halls of power.

So enjoy your birthday USA. I hope you get to see 243…

Happy 151st Birthday Canada!

See the source imageHappy 151st birthday to the best country on Earth!

I am very grateful to live in Canada. It’s not perfect, but we are usually moving in the right directions.

My only regret is that I am on-call at work right now; so I won’t be able to get out to photograph a fireworks celebration!

Finished Reading “Nailed”

Yesterday afternoon I finished reading David Fitzgerald’s excellent book, Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed At All.

imageI have seen a few YouTube clips  of Fitzgerald speaking – his appearance on The Atheist Experience is especially good. Wait for the caller who tries to challenge his thesis… Devil

He often has a humourous way of engaging with his audiences. It makes you want to listen to what he has to say. But he is also extremely knowledgeable on the mythicist side of Jesus’ existence. Don’t think you can throw some basic apologist fluff at him like Flavius Josephus; because Fitzgerald will blow that argument away instantly.

Personally, I am still waffling slightly between mythicism and historicism. While I really like Bart Ehrman’s writing, I was less than impressed with his Did Jesus Exist? I felt that Ehrman fell uncharacteristically short with his argument. But not so much with Fitzgerald. He makes a series of clear cases that easily raise sensible doubt as to whether dude named Jesus was stomping around early first century Palestine raising the dead and coming back to life himself.

Fitzgerald has spent the years since Nailed was published doing additional research. This has produced three more books and with Nailed as the first, the series is now called “Mything In Action.” The three new books cover the idea that there was even a regular human that inspired the Jesus fable.

So when I finish those books, maybe I will no longer remain on the fence regarding the Jesus stories that I grew up with.

Saturn V Model Finished

Earlier this afternoon, I put the last few pieces of the Saturn V LEGO model together.

Saturn VThis is a big, beautiful model from the Ideas series. Ideas are fan submissions that get voted on with the hope that they are turned into a shipping product. The wonderful Women Of NASA set is also in the Ideas series.

I will upload a better image to my Flickr album later – for now, here is a crappy cell phone camera shot. Note the re-designed Burj Khalifa model for scale. The Saturn V is nearly one meter tall – by far my tallest model.

The third stage is sitting in place and thus easily lifted off. A lunar lander model is held inside the cone of the stage. At the base of the rocket is the crew capsule with water floatation balloons deployed.

This means I have to move on to building the Big Ben tower now.

Cleaning The Blog Categories

imageJust like the Flickr albums and images, I really need to clean up my blog categories. Many of these I rarely use or do not use at all.

I suspect that the Entertainment and Music categories can be removed. Although my background is programming, SQL Server and a smattering of SharePoint; I simply do not blog about these topics. So those can be removed.

I’ve never liked the name of Ray-Tracing as a category for my 3D work. I will likely change that to Digital Art to reflect the change on Flickr. Perhaps breaking it out into multiple categories – Modeling, Texturing, Rendering – could work?

Skepticism can be combined with the Atheism category. Perhaps a Photography category that is distinct from Photoshop is in order?

Hopefully, I can get into the mySQL database that powers this blog. I could write a query to show what categories I have used most often. I’m reasonably certain that I have the skill to do that… Sarcastic smile

Cleaning Up My Flickr Albums

I have used Flickr for a very long time now. Much of that has been not knowing anything at all about how to take a good photograph. I was a point-and-shoot guy with no thought to subject or composition or camera settings.

I think it is high time that I cleaned out all the garbage shots from my albums.

The exception will be my various travel albums and photo walks. There may be poor quality pictures in there, but they are my memories and so those will stay.

I’m going to get rid of my Fitness album completely. Sadly, I’ve lost all those gains and cannot seem to get myself wanting to be in shape again.

I am undecided about the Dungeons & Dragons album. I have made a considerable investment in the plastic miniatures of heroes and monsters as well as the cardboard Dungeon Tiles sets. When I first moved to Texas, I tried playing Dungeons & Dragons remotely over instant messaging applications. It was a miserable failure. Some of those photos were meant to represent the player characters in that failed game.

The Ray-Traces album will be renamed to Digital Art and only put in quality renders. The Work-In-Progress or test renders album will be removed. The Photoshop album will get merged into the Digital Art album.

The Atheism album will be deleted. I made one photo as a memorial for Christopher Hitchens. I had intended to share collected irreverent memes but I was unsure of copyright. Also, there could be nasty reactions from the ultra-sensitive snowflake crowd. Those who get their knickers in a twist whenever somebody

Building The Saturn V In LEGO

Back at the end of April, I bought the Saturn V rocket in LEGO. I already had the Big Ben model. Both of these have yet to be built primarily due to my concern about building space.

I usually build on the small table that also serves as where I use my work laptop when I work from home. Flat surfaces typically become storage places for me…books, papers, miscellany…it all builds up rather quickly.

Needing some incentive, I put out a Facebook poll to my friends. After 10 votes in a couple of days, the Saturn V has the lead. So I am calling the decision made and will commence the build this week!

Slipping Gears On Blog Posting Again

Here we are, half-way through the month of June and this is my second post. Before that, my last post was the middle of May. Let’s get caught-up on the stuff in my world.

I was going to evaluate BlogJet as replacement for Windows Live Writer. I abandoned that idea when I saw that BlogJet is nearly as old as WLW and has been just as long without any update to its software. Why would I pay for that when WLW is free?

Another piece of software that I began evaluating is RizomUV. It turned out that most of my evaluation period was being done on an older version. So the author graciously extended my evaluation period so that I could use the latest version. As previously mentioned, this tool has many features that make it superior to UV Layout; I am almost certainly going to switch. I did hit a few technical oddities but that might be caused by issues with my bell tower mesh.

NPS_TorontoBefore Photoshop World, Canada celebrated Victoria Day. I took the opportunity for a long overdue photowalk at Nathan Phillips Square, Roundhouse Park and Ripley’s Aquarium. I must confess, Nathan Phillips Square was much smaller than I had envisioned.

I arrived very early in the morning, so the square was empty of people. Occasionally, buses would arrive and about 30 Asian tourists would tumble out and take cellphone pictures for a few minutes before moving on to the next site. Since I had my tripod and other gear with me, I was deemed to be an expert (how little they knew! Sarcastic smile). Several people asked me to take pictures for them. I happily obliged – it was fun.

Islington_Subway_BWOne of my favourite photos was the first one of the day. I thought to take a photo of the train arriving at Islington station. This one screamed at me to be done in black & white.

I also took a photo of the connecting tunnel at Spadina station that links the east-west and north-south subway lines. The early morning holiday hours saw this normally crowded area devoid of people. So I liked how that came out.

This has inspired me to make a major (for me) photography project based on the subway lines. I’m still considering what my precise approach will be.

Photoshop World 2018

Last Wednesday, I flew to Orlando, Florida for my second Photoshop World. Just like the FFRF National Conventions, I am going to aim to make this an annual event for myself.

The flight into Orlando experience some short but fierce turbulence. It didn’t bother me; I was more intrigued by my fellow passengers’ reactions. For the first time in my life, I saw real fear on someone’s face. This poor woman across the aisle was terrified and it showed in way that I had never seen before. Behind my seat, a young girl kept asking, “Are we okay?” The plane was already on approach, so we had no choice but to go through it. Quite the experience.

PSW 2018 Welcome SignOf course, PSW was an even better experience!

Scott Kelby, the entire KelbyOne staff and all the amazing instructors really do their utmost to make this a great conference for creative people. Everybody is friendly and helpful.

Several people from the KelbyOne message forums attended. We met up often in the Community Lounge area to relax and chat and to help other attendees.

Here is the link to my Photoshop World 2018 Flickr album.

Natural Light Still Life - LilyOddly, I did not take that many photos this time. But there are a few shots that I am proud of.

KelbyOne member, Melanie Kern-Favilla attended to show off her floral photography technique. She delivered a KelbyOne class on her style too. With Melanie’s suggestions, I photographed this still life lily with natural light. It is hard to believe that there are massive floor to ceiling windows behind me with the Florida afternoon sun glaring in. But that’s Melanie’s magic at work!

May was a sparse month for blog posts. I’m aiming to change that this month.

Unfold 3D

I said my next post would be written from BlogJet. Not yet. Long story…

But I started trying out Rizom Lab’s Unfold 3D today. There is a lot to unwrap (Hahaha! Get it?) with this tool. I’ll be blunt; they have no documentation either online or offline. There are some disorganized YouTube videos and a Discord chat channel. So learning the application is by absorbing the community tribal knowledge.

That really sucks large. Not a professional look for a company at all.

unfold3dHowever; if you can scale that initial wall, this is a powerful application for creating UV maps. Memorizing a few keyboard shortcuts will serve you well.

You can select points, edges, polygons and entire shells. UV Layout can do that but in a more clunky fashion. One big advantage UV Layout has is the Copy UVs so that cloned meshes (columns, balustrades, etc.) can all be flattened quickly. I am told Unfold 3D has this feature too but I have not figured it out yet.

Once I get a little more comfortable with the application, I will make a YouTube video beginner’s tutorial.

Considering Some New Tools

Blogging

I have been writing this blog with Windows Live Writer for many years now. I’m used to the tool and it fits (mostly) the way that I work. At the same time, it is getting long in the tooth and clearly Microsoft is not going to update it – WLW shows a 2012 copyright. So I started to seek out other blog writing applications.

About the only one that seemed really capable to me is BlogJet. The latest version was released in 2013 – so not much better than WLW. But everything else seems pale beside it. So I am going to give it a try.

This post is done with WLW, but next post will be done in BlogJet.

UV Mapping

I have been using Headus UV Layout for a few years now. I’m not at the newest version because I have let my maintenance expire. It is a far better UV tool than what either LightWave or Carrara offers.

The UI is the biggest obstacle. It is not pretty and it looks like a Windows 3 application – apologies to the young kids out there who will never know that pain. While it has some powerful unwrapping tools, they are locked behind that awful UI. My recent experience with fixing discontinuous edges that UV Layout then refused to open really left a bad taste in my mouth.

So I decided to search for a new UV tool and I found Rizom Lab. They make Unfold3D.

This tool will open FBX files as well as OBJ. It has colourized distortion maps for the flattened shells. It natively supports UDIM (I believe UV Layout does too but it is less clear). And it has a sexy, modern UI. I’m still digging into learning more about this tool before I evaluate it.

In semi-related news, I have made some good progress on cleaning-up the bell tower model. I rebuilt the base to use fewer polygons so it will unwrap more cleaning. I’ve rebuilt all of the front door pieces using subdivision surfaces. I did the same with the four big column structures around the belfry. I have much better topology now and few polygons.

So I will be returning to UV mapping the bell tower soon.

Finished A Game Of Thrones (At Last!)

As Season 7 of HBO’s Game Of Thrones came to its penultimate end, I decided to re-read George R. R. Martin’s epic masterpiece, A Song Of Ice & Fire. Like a lot of things in my life recently, finishing the first novel stalled a bit.

A few nights ago, I pushed through to the end and now I am starting on the second novel. A Clash Of Kings details the War Of The Five Kings (and covers what is essentially Season 2 of the television series).

Some of the best YouTube analysis of the books and the show can be found on the Alt-Shift-X channel. With Thrones in hiatus for another year, he has started looking at other shows too. But there is a great deal of effort put into these videos. Highly recommended!

Newest LEGO Model

LEGO Saturn VI made another bit of a splurge purchase last weekend. After visiting with my grandmother, I walked over to a nearby toy store (Turtle Pond Toys inside University Plaza for those of you who know the town of Dundas).

This is going to be about one meter tall when built.

Here’s the rub though. I now have two rather large models that remain in their boxes. The Elizabeth Tower (aka Big Ben) and this one. I simply do not have suitable room to build them or display them. There are other large models that I’d like to buy (Tower Bridge for one) but that only exacerbates the problem of space.

It is times like this that I miss my house in Texas and the bedroom dedicated solely to LEGO models…

A Bell Tower Setback

I procrastinated writing a blog post about the UV mapping progress last week. Each night after work, I’d spend some time in UV Layout unwrapping parts of the bell tower model. Then on Friday night, I hit a snag.

discontinuous_edgeA snag that would end up stomping on all my work thus far.

UV Layout displays discontinuous edges in blue. What is that? An edge that is part of only one polygon. A two dimensional square would have four discontinuous edges but a three dimensional cube would have none because all edges are shared by two polygon faces. These are not bad things necessarily – a modeler might create them on purpose.

In the picture above, the red arrows point out four polygons. Each of the two pairs on either side of the blue line should be sharing that edge. You can see other blue, discontinuous edges in other parts of the picture.

discontinuous_edge_2The ultimate proof of the problem is in LightWave itself.

On the left, it looks like I have selected a single point. However, the Point Info dialog box clearly shows two points. Each point has the same Z and Y coordinate location; but the X coordinate is off by 0.1192 micrometers.

That is smaller than a lot of bacteria. But it still means that there are two different edges that look like one edge to the naked eye.

I don’t know how this happened. A good thing that LightWave has a super-easy fix with the Merge Points command!

So all is well right?

I thought it would be. But UV Layout refuses to open the new OBJ file that I saved. The error message it displays is not helpful at all.

So I am taking this force-fed opportunity to clean up the model geometry a little bit before re-starting the UV mapping process from scratch. The shape will be unchanged; I am just tweaking areas that will improve the ease of UV mapping.

Hopefully the next major release of LightWave will see some huge improvements to the UV toolset. Otherwise, I might finally abandon LightWave in favour of Modo.

Calling The Bell Tower Modeling Finished

tower_finishedAlthough I could probably take this even further, I really do want to move forward with the work on this project. So I am calling the modeling phase of my bell tower done.

Major props and shout-outs to my friends Cris, Brent, Gene, Dan, Kevin and Wendy for their encouragement, critiques and suggestions. I love you guys! Thanks for everything!

imageThe last phase that I completed was the big windows on the top floor. I’m leaving the smaller eight windows on the lower floors open. The tower custodians will just have to mop up after rainstorms!

I learned a lot while working on this. One of the most important lessons is to plan carefully in advance before adding a single polygon to the model. Think of all the things you want to include up-front and plan around that. Adding them in after the fact will lead to problems.

My model was heavily inspired by the duomo of the Turin cathedral. You can tell that I took several creative liberties. I put stairs into my model and I doubt anything like that is in the original.

The final stats are:

  • 360,983 polygons (mostly quads, some tris and subpatches)
  • 31 surfaces to be shaded

Now I am moving on to UV mapping. Even with UV Layout, that could be daunting. After that, comes the texturing with Substance Painter.

No doubt, this model has much more to teach me…