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

New Books & Reading Progress

Posted on Sunday, February 7th, 2016 at 1:52 PM in Atheism, Books, Religion by Garstor

One nice benefit of a commute to Mississauga or Toronto on the GO Transit system is that I can get more reading time in. Still not as much as I would like – I have found that the evening trip home is especially difficult to focus on something deep.

didJesusExistI mentioned previously that I want to dig-in to the historicity versus the mythic stories of Jesus. To that end, I have begun reading Bart Ehrman’s excellent (so far) Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument For Jesus Of Nazareth. Ehrman is certainly a historicist; it is not a spoiler to say this because it is printed right on the dust jacket flaps. Ehrman is focusing on the evidence he sees for Jesus having been someone walking around early first century Palestine.

Currently, I am approaching the half-way mark. So far Professor Ehrman has considered the evidence from the Gospels and from the Bible outside of Gospels (focusing specifically on Paul’s writings). He has touched on Flavius Josephus and his epic The Antiquities Of The Jews and will examining this in greater depth later in the book.

islamAs a bit of a change, I also read the short book Islam And The Future Of Tolerance by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz.

This book is slightly longer than Harris’ Letter To A Christian Nation, but a marginally slower read since Letter is more like a rant and this book is a back-and-forth discussion between two very smart men.

It is refreshing to give Harris enough time to expound on his ideas. Famously, on Bill Maher’s show Real Time, Ben Affleck began a shouting session – actually changing the topic since Harris was not on the show to discuss Islam – that devolved rapidly.

Nawaz is a former radical Muslim who spent time in an Egyptian prison. He did not come out of prison a non-believer. He still practices Islam; however, he agrees that there needs to be secular reform. He helped create the Quilliam Foundation to promote and foster these ideas.

It is dialogue like this that gives me hope. As an atheist, I wish religion would just disappear; but I know that that won’t happen.

Both of these books are well worth reading.

That Didn’t Take Long…

Posted on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016 at 7:52 PM in Personal, SQL Server by Garstor

Alas this Friday will be my final day at D+H already. Unfortunately, the job was not a good fit and I did not want to be unfair to them or to myself. I sensed the mistake of my decision within the first week but really focused on all aspects to be sure it wasn’t just new job jitters.

Ultimately, the work was too junior-level. This would be great for someone starting a career in SQL Server. The developmental goals that I set for myself won’t happen at D+H. It is not right that I end up taking sick days to attend other interviews – I hate that.

So it is back to the search! And it is back to continuing learning with my PluralSight subscription.

New Flickr Album – Hamilton, Ontario

Posted on Sunday, January 17th, 2016 at 6:50 PM in Personal by Garstor

Now that I am back in Hamilton permanently – well, for the foreseeable future anyway – I decided that I should get out and take more photos of the city that I call home. My dear friend Catherine (who is an amazing photographer!) has also inspired me to click the shutter more often.

This morning, I walked around a few blocks near my condo and grabbed pics of anything that caught my eye. I created a new Flickr album for Hamilton pictures. There are only 8 pictures in there now but that will definitely grow in the future.

Here are my two favourites thus far:

Whitehern Front GateOddly enough, despite living in Hamilton most of my life – including just a couple of hundred meters from this spot – today was the first time I wandered the Whitehern Museum property.

I have walked past here more times than I can count. So today I decided to enter and take a few pictures of this historic place. I thought the trees made for a nice framing.

MacNab Street is to the left and CIty Hall is to the right. I am standing on the Jackson Street sidewalk.

 

Waiting For Tomorrow's CommuteJust behind Whitehern are the train tracks serving the Hamilton GO Station. My condo is right beside the station; you cannot see it in this shot though. The buses and freight trains do occasionally wake me up.

There are three GO Transit commuter trains that leave weekday mornings and return in the evenings. I wish they would expand the service to have a few more during the day.

My old apartment is just up the street from where this was taken. You can see the front entrance on the Flickr album.

I think this album will really take off when spring gets here. I can’t wait to take pictures around Gage and King’s Forest Parks. Or Webster’s Falls. Or the Niagara Escarpment.

Settling In – New Job

Posted on Sunday, January 10th, 2016 at 3:39 PM in Personal by Garstor

So I have not worked since leaving Avanade on August 15.

I wish that I could say this has been an extended vacation, but that would be a lie. Selling my house – in spite of having an excellent realtor – was quite stressful. I mentioned the foundation work and that was only scratching the surface! In my earlier post on the subject, I mentioned that the condo I am renting required an entire year of rent because I did not have a job.

That took a big bite out of my house sale profit. I think it will be very helpful in the long run though. Now I can focus on making investments and building up a nest-egg.

Tomorrow morning, I take the GO Transit bus into Mississauga to start my new job. I’ll be working at Davis & Henderson performing SQL Server support for their clients. I’m looking forward to this job; it fits my background perfectly and also affords new opportunities and experience n the financial sector.

I have set my sight on learning data warehousing and business intelligence concepts. Until now, my work experience has been firmly rooted in the SQL Server transactional data engine. It’s time to build on that.

Another Book Finished & Another Started

Posted on Sunday, January 10th, 2016 at 12:02 PM in Books, Lego, Politics by Garstor

SavingCapitalismLast Friday night, just before nodding off to sleep, I finished Robert Reich’s excellent book Saving Capitalism: For The Many Not The Few.

My first encounter with Reich’s ideas was in the documentary Inequality For All. You can think of this book as an expansion or companion to that film. Although one might think economics to be a dry subject; Reich’s writing is very approachable. The first several chapters break down the causes for today’s chasm between the Haves and the Have-Nots.

The final chapters then explore the steps that are necessary to correct the imbalance.

What struck me the most was how Mr. Reich repeatedly stressed that this is not about some conspiracy theory. The ultra-rich have not gathered in secret somewhere to pull the political strings to create this situation. They have behaved as any rational actor would. Rather like the death by 10,000 papercuts, no one person or action is responsible. Instead, many discrete events over the course of a few decades have brought this about.

Both the documentary and this book emphasizes that we have been here before. The Great Depression of the 30s and the height of the Robber Barons of the late 19th Century have close parallels with what is happening today. Corrective action was taken in order to fix what had gone wrong. We need to take corrective actions again and make capitalism work for everyone instead of just a handful of ultra-rich.

ExtremeBricksMy next book is a bit of a unicorn-chaser.

Extreme Bricks is about the LEGO fans and Master Builders who build huge models. These are often on display at LEGOLand parks or at toy conventions.

The chapters cover some biographical information about the builder and then discuss the model and challenges behind its creation. Fascinating stuff.

As much as I love LEGO and dream of having millions of bricks, I know that I do have the patience to build at scales like these. But I profoundly appreciate the passion that these people have.

Third YouTube Video – Manually Tweaking UV Vertices In UV Layout

Posted on Tuesday, January 5th, 2016 at 2:08 PM in Ray-Tracing by Garstor

UV_Layout_tutorialMy third YouTube video and second tutorial on using Headus UV Layout is now available.

This is a very short video at just over 4 minutes.

The previous video showed the basic unwrapping of primitive meshes and some quick optimization tricks. This video demonstrates how to manually edit the UVs once they are unwrapped because sometimes the algorithm creates overlapping or twisted UVs that can only be fixed by the user.

Future videos in the UV Layout series will likely be short like this one. I’d like to demonstrate some of the useful features like:

  • Straightening edges
  • Packing a UV tile
  • Working with symmetrical meshes and stacking mirrored UV islands
  • Copying UVs to identical geometry (one of the best features in UV Layout!)

Eventually I will also upload animation scenes that I create. For the time being, I am focused on static scenes.

Finished Another Robert M. Price Book

Posted on Thursday, December 31st, 2015 at 6:57 PM in Atheism, Books by Garstor

Although I do enjoy reading Robert M. Price’s books, they usually take me a long time to get through. He is spectacularly knowledgeable on the subject and explores issues very deeply. I often need to take extended breaks from reading before returning to them.

jidJesus Is Dead was not that different. I did manage to finish it faster than The Incredible Shrinking Son Of Man but that was mainly due to it being a shorter book!

Still, it was an enjoyable read covering a subject that I will certainly be exploring in greater depth in 2016. In short, was Jesus a real man or completely fictional? It is a fascinating question.

In Jesus Is Dead, Price tackles several Christian apologists with a chapter for each one. He takes apart each of their arguments with laser-like precision. Price easily pokes holes in their theories – doubtlessly his former life as an apologist helps.

As one can guess, Price is a mythicist – Jesus is created out of whole-cloth from previous myths and hero tales. My favourite author on the subject of the Bible is Bart Ehrman and I believe he is a historicist – Jesus was a real person whose story has been exaggerated with miracles and such.

Like Price, historian Richard Carrier is a mythicist. I have books by both Ehrman and Carrier on this subject. I’m curious to find out which author presents the best evidence.

Although I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions; I do hope to read a lot more books in 2016. My list grows faster than I can clear it!

2016: Here I Come!

Posted on Thursday, December 31st, 2015 at 4:59 PM in Personal, Ray-Tracing by Garstor

It has actually been awhile since I did some personal modeling and texturing. Besides the UV Layout tutorial videos, I have been working on a side-project (sorry, not divulging anything just yet).

So yesterday, I figured I would put something together to mark the last day of 2015 and to welcome in 2016.

2016

All of the modeling, texturing and rendering was done in LightWave – did you really expect anything less from me? I did add the smoke effect with Photoshop. There are two spherical lights and three linear lights to add the selective glow to the numbers and reddish hints on the floor and walls.

I think it turned out pretty good for something that was rather quick-and-dirty.

I am looking forward to 2016 and some big life-changes. I’ll be sure to detail them as they happen!