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.

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.

In A Blue Funk

Work has gotten me down lately. That has spilled out into my personal life; so I have not posted recently or worked on any 3D or photography.

I hate these situations. They are tough to climb out of sometimes. But climb I must!

One foot forward…

New Toy!

Last year, my Facebook feed began showing me the Pluto Trigger. Unlike most web-based advertising, this one actually caught my interest. This could be a helluva lot of fun.

imageI asked about the device on the KelbyOne forums and someone there did have one. He gave a positive endorsement for the device’s features. I also searched for other independent reviews and managed to find two.

So today, my own Pluto Trigger arrived!

It is a compact little unit, but a lot of cool stuff is packed into it. Hopefully I will finally get out for a photowalk – it has been months now – to put this new toy through its paces.

Pluto Trigger has a YouTube channel here if you want to learn more about it.

Happy 101st Birthday Grandma!

grandma-Aug-2017My grandma Garstin was born today over a century ago in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England. She attended Carter Lane Public School. I often wonder about visiting Mansfield to see it today.

She was nine years old when the family immigrated to Canada. My great-grandfather worked in the new gold mine up in Timmins, Ontario. Had he told the immigration people that he was a coal miner, the family would likely have lived in Nova Scotia and I wouldn’t be here today.

I try to visit my grandmother every weekend that I am not on-call at work. I often read to her from her memoirs that she wrote nearly 20 years ago. That always brings back memories and opens up talking points. Sometimes my dad or my aunt can call my cell phone from Australia and talk to their mom.

My long-term goals are to preserve grandma’s extensive journals and memoirs. She detailed her world travels thoroughly and they can be fascinating reads.

Happy birthday grandma! I wish I could visit you today!

A Week In Hell…

Recently my blog posts have had a somber tone. Bad news for my family and personal interests. This past week at work has been brutal; it drained nearly all my reserves for getting through each day.

We hit a new variation on a known bug in SQL Server 2016 that nearly caused an outage. So much of the week was consumed with tracking that down and monitoring for new occurrences. If the problem happens again, we should get a filtered minidump to Microsoft for analysis. One of my systems had other headaches to deal with. On top of all that, I was the on-call DBA.

Fun times…

I finished the Shanghai Skyline Lego model but did not get a photo taken yet. That will happen later today.

This is a long weekend – Monday being “Family Day” in Ontario. So tomorrow I will visit my grandmother (which I try to do every weekend that I am not on-call). On Wednesday, she turns 101 years old! So we’ll have a few glasses of sherry to celebrate.

I need to get out for a photo-walk somewhere on Monday. It has been ages since I’ve taken new photos. The shot of creative adrenaline will hopefully be what I need to recover from the last seven days.

R.I.P. Uncle Michael

Just received word from my mother that my uncle Michael passed away last night.

This was not entirely unexpected. He had appeared to be suffering from dementia – he was 84 years old – but it was moving fast. So about a month ago, a doctor ordered a brain scan. They found an very aggressive tumour.

Farewell uncle. You’ve earned your rest.

Fast Updates

Debug

Debug continues to recover nicely. The cauterized areas that were removed are drying up and her fur is gradually returning to the areas that were shaved away. I still put crème on her mouth sore and make her wear The Cone Of Shame. She hates that but I usually only leave it on for the morning when I am at work. I take it off at lunch.

The lab reports that the facial growth was benign. It’s still not complete sure what it was; though the vet was talking about irritated hair follicles. I hope that’s all it was and that it won’t come back.

The Bell Tower

I’ve continued to push forward on this model. I think it is nearing the point where I call it done and move on to UV mapping and texturing. The most recent work is a separate model of a lamp that I will use as a light source around the tower.

UV_Layout_LampHere is the lamp model after I have UV mapped it in UV Layout. It is spread out over two UV tiles; but LightWave 2018 now supports UDIMs so this should not be a problem. All in all, it is nicely flattened (hence the greenish coloring) even though I made more seam cuts in the top than I would have liked.

I have tried texturing the model in Substance Painter, but I definitely need to improve my skills there. Right now, I envision this to have a copper frame with some grungy discolorations or oxidation marks. Later today, I plan on trying the new PBR texturing in LightWave 2018.

Fingers are crossed for when I tackle texturing the tower.

Dominion

imageBack in Texas, a group of my ex-Microsoft colleagues started playing board games over our lunch break (and sometimes on the weekend). Just before Christmas, I turned on a few of my Moneris colleagues to Dominion.

It is a turn-based, deck-building game around the theme of expanding your dominion by purchasing Estates, Duchies and Provinces. You acquire the wealth to do this by purchasing one or more of the Kingdom cards each turn. The Kingdom cards power the game dynamic in varied ways and the expansion sets offer new dynamics to spice up the game.

I have all of the expansions but currently we are only playing with the base game, Intrigue and Seaside. I haven’t done the combinatorial mathematics, but I’m sure that there are many billions of possible games across all the expansions.

Right now I have about six regular players. My boss has won the most games – no, I’m not letting her win on purpose! Hopefully I can get more people interested and we’ll start playing two games simultaneously.

Debug Is Recovering Nicely

My poor, furry baby was definitely in a foul mood when I picked her up from the vet last night. Not eating would do that to anyone, as I well recall. But the surgery to remove the fleshy growth on her face went well.

I gave her a little bit of food leftover from her final meal before the vet-ordered cutoff time. Even though it was cold from being in the fridge, she devoured it. A good sign, I think. She was trying to wake me up at 3:15 AM today for more feeding; so I got up earlier than usual.

The lab should provide their analysis of the growth by the end of this week.

Debug’s Vet Visit

Tomorrow morning my furry baby is headed back to the vet for more surgery. Sad smile

Debug the cat and her skin soresShe has been dealing with unknown skin issues for several years now. Most notably, at the hinge of her lips on the right side. I had thought she had simply scratched her self while rubbing her face on something. The area was often clotted with dried blood.

The pink, fleshy growth above her mouth is fairly new. That started forming just before I left for Wisconsin last September. When I returned home, it was the size of a green pea.

Both my vet in Hamilton and the new one here in Etobicoke think the mouth sore is an allergic reaction. But to what? They both suggested custom foods – that are available only through them of course. Currently, I am feeding Debug a kangaroo meat meal each morning. She has lost weight between vet visits thanks to the lean diet; but the sores remain.

So tomorrow, the vet will remove that pink growth through “abrasion and cauterizing” – two words that shivered my spine – since there is not enough room or flesh for sutures.

I’m paying extra to get the growth analyzed at a lab. Hopefully, it will provide some much-needed answers.

Joining The uSheep Herd

After more than six years of solid service – I could have probably gone longer – I have finally given up my Windows Phone Nokia 920.

I hate cellphones – all of them. A common saying of mine is, “Cellphones are the worst invention, second only to nuclear weapons.” But my career has forced them upon me and I have forged a barely stable truce with the technology.

This afternoon I bought a new gold Apple iPhone 8+. The screen on this beast is about as large as the entire Nokia 920. I opted for the iPhone because I figure that it will play nicest with Adobe Creative Cloud.

Now to get it setup and fully functioning.

Anybody want a faithful Nokia 920? Open-mouthed smile

New WordPress Theme

For the longest time – pretty much my entire duration on WebHost4Life – this blog has used the WordPress theme Rubix. I really like the rainbow aurora borealis-like colours. I was also severely limited in that many themes required updated version of WordPress.

According to WebHost4Life, I could not update WordPress since I was using their Windows Server platform instead of the Linux platform. Perplexing, I know. But Brent’s amazing work changed all that! WordPress is running at the current version.

Also, the Rubix theme has not been updated since 2009. I figured, it was time for a facelift.

So this theme is put out by the WordPress team and is called Twenty Seventeen. I guess it is a little early to expect a Twenty Eighteen theme…

It feels a little bit wider and easier to read. I’ll stick with this for a bit.

Weird Problems Solved

A little over a week ago, my Windows Live Writer stopped being able to post here. It was a weird XML error. I flopped around a bit like a fish out of water but finally opened a support ticket with WebHost4Life.

While waiting for that, I mentioned the issue to my chummer Brent. While I know SQL Server, he knows everything else. We used to work together at both Microsoft and Avanade. How he keeps all that arcane network / web knowledge in his skull astounds me.

But Brent flew into action like the Superman he is. Before long, WordPress was fully updated and all my posts were restored. Windows Live Writer was behaving once more.

I’ve lost track of the beers that I owe him. Thanks brah!

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.