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

Farewell, Mr. Cohen

Posted on Sunday, November 13th, 2016 at 4:36 PM in Music, News by Garstor

What a week! A tumultuous upset in the United States’ election – which I kept out of on this blog but was rather active on Facebook. I’ve had a lingering sore throat all week and that was what got me out of bed on Friday morning at 1am.

My cousin Hana had posted the news about Leonard Cohen’s passing.

2016 has not be kind to music. This time I felt it much deeper.

The sore throat got worse and the only positive is that I could sing in closer tune to the Cohen songs that I’ve been playing on WinAmp all weekend.

So long sir. Thanks for everything you’ve given us.

Adobe Creative Cloud At Last

Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2016 at 6:18 PM in Photoshop, Ray-Tracing by Garstor

I was still at Microsoft when they announced plans to dominate the cloud. The chosen mantra was “We’re all in!”

Ugh! I refused to say it. I found it vaguely dirty minded (yes, that borders on hypocritical but I am not a multi-national world-renowned company).

Well, my opinions of the cloud be damned. Years later, it seems that everybody is doing it. I was disappointed when Adobe announced the Creative Cloud and that they would not ship another physical product beyond CS6.

I’ve put it off for years and I am now several versions behind the latest and greatest versions.

So I’m taking the plunge but it wasn’t as easy as it should have been. A little history is in order, please bear with me.

A long time ago, there was a company called Macromedia. They made a web-based piece of software you might have heard of – Flash. They also made a program for creating websites called Dreamweaver. I bought their suite of tools way back in 2001. Then one day, Adobe bought Macromedia.

That wasn’t a bad thing really. It was a good match and brought some incredible tools to Adobe’s other incredible tools.

Then I moved to Texas. When I upgraded to the new Adobe Creative Suite series, I had to prove my registration of the former-Macromedia suite. But the Adobe ID account did not accept my Texas address. It was linked to Canada and could not be changed. For tax reasons is the official excuse.

So I made a new Adobe ID account and used that happily for several Creative Suite upgrades.

Now I am going through that process all over again but in reverse. Adobe support has apparently changed the country on my account (so much for being impossible).

Hopefully I will have the new applications installed before I finally have to get to bed for work tomorrow…

Civilization 6

Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2016 at 4:28 AM in Entertainment by Garstor

imageCivilization 6 was released a little over a week ago. I have owned every major Civilization games since the first one; so it was a done deal that I’d buy Civ 6 too.

I confess that I barely played Civ 5 though. It was simply a matter of not having enough free time. I am hoping that won’t be the case this time around. On Friday night I stayed up until midnight – just … one … more … turn…

Civilization remains as addictive as ever.

imageMore challenging too. Perhaps I am a bit rusty, but in my first full game – even set to the easy Settler mode – I got my butt handed to me. I ended up resigning because I just couldn’t continue in any meaningful way against the barbarian onslaught. I went back to replay the tutorial mode and to pay more attention to the advice of the advisor.

My current game is doing much better now, but I am still struggling a bit to maintain the upkeep of my units. The delete button does not appear to work; so now I am paying for units that I no longer want or need.

I keep forgetting that you can no longer stack units. This often screws me up in a battle. But I will get used to it eventually and make better decisions.

Just watch the opening trailer movie in the link above. Narrated by none other than Sean Bean, the opener never fails to capture the imagination and inspire.

Hopefully I don’t stay up until midnight tonight. There are other things to do this week!

CN Tower Stair Climb For Charity

Posted on Monday, October 24th, 2016 at 3:46 PM in Fitness, Personal by Garstor

Moneris buildingMy colleagues and I at Moneris began climbing the stairs in our building as an afternoon break and for some extra fitness. One day, seemingly as a joke, someone mentioned climbing the stairs of the CN Tower.

That quickly became a serious idea. We looked at our stair climbs as a form of training.

The CN Tower stair climb for charity has been around nearly as long as the CN Tower itself. Normally, the stairs are reserved for maintenance personnel only (and it shows on the inside). But once per year, people climb the stairs from outside the tower, up to the observation deck. The donations raised benefit the United Way.

There are 1,776 steps and 145 flights in the CN Tower. We have 21 flights at work and managed to get to the point of climbing, coming down the elevator and climbing again 4 or 5 times. By our math, that was about one CN Tower worth of climbing.

The Moneris DBA Stair Climbing TeamI’m probably in the worst shape of the entire team. At the 96th flight, my right knee was hurting enough that I couldn’t put much pressure on it. That definitely slowed me down.

My time was 35 minutes and 14 seconds.

I’m proud of all of us. We raised $500 for the United Way. We’ll likely do it again next year – faster.

UV Layout Pack Basics

Posted on Monday, October 24th, 2016 at 4:30 AM in Ray-Tracing by Garstor

imageI guess I am on a bit of a roll here. After the Copy UVs video, I pushed on a bit further so that I could show the basics of the UV Layout Pack feature.

As impressive as I find the Copy UVs feature, it is the Pack feature that is really what UV Layout is about. After you have flattened all the UV shells, you want to arrange them into a single UV tile – sometimes more than one tile, but I’m getting ahead of myself. You can certainly do this by hand and if your model is simple enough, that’s not a big deal.

In my example, I unwrapped 80 corbels that decorate four castle towers. Manually moving all those shells would be time consuming. The Pack feature not only does that moving for you, it tries to optimize the coverage of the tile space. The more space a shell covers, the more visual detail it has from the texture map.

This was an introduction to packing. There are several features surrounding it. So I’ll make at least one more video about it.

New YouTube Video For UV Layout

Posted on Friday, October 21st, 2016 at 7:06 PM in Ray-Tracing by Garstor

Now that I have moved closer to work, I have the time and energy to create more content on my YouTube channel.

imageI am still creating videos about Headus UV Layout. My newest video shows off the Copy UVs feature. As I mention in the video, this feature pretty much makes UV Layout worth the purchase price.

Unwrapping meshes that are the same cloned shape is tedious and time consuming. But Copy UVs allows you to unwrap only one of the clones and then let UV Layout apply all your cuts to the other clones automatically.

You can then chose what UV Layout does with all those flattened shells. It can extend them in one long line along either the U or V directions. Or it can stack all the shells on top of each other; giving you maximal UV space at the cost of making all the meshes have the same textures applied.

I have a few more UV Layout videos planned. Now it won’t be nine months between releases!

Settling In

Posted on Sunday, October 16th, 2016 at 6:47 PM in Personal by Garstor

I have been here in Etobicoke for over two weeks now but I am still unpacking. I accomplished a lot on that front today though.

Some highlights:

  • Walking to work is awesome! I love coming home for lunch and have started a healthier sandwich meal instead of eating at the food court at work.
  • The layout of this apartment gives the feeling of being bigger than my last place in Hamilton, even though it is technically smaller.
  • I might be able to put some of my LEGO models back on display!

Work remains however.

This is a much older building with a lot more units, so bug infestation is a problem. I know that sounds gross, but it isn’t that bad and it can be dealt with. I need curtains. The 3D machine isn’t working yet; I can’t wait to get back to LightWave, World Machine, Poser and Photoshop!

FFRF 2016 National Convention

Posted on Friday, October 14th, 2016 at 6:41 PM in Atheism, Skepticism, Travel by Garstor

Last weekend I was in Pittsburgh for the 39th National Convention of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

This was my fifth convention already! I’ve been to Hartford, Portland, Madison, Los Angeles, back to Madison and now Pittsburgh. Next year will be in San Francisco. This is one reason that I attend; I get to travel to cities that I might not otherwise visit. First and foremost though is the socializing with like-minded people.

This convention was no exception to that. On Sunday afternoon, I walked around Pittsburgh for over two hours with a fellow attendee. We crossed two bridges (Pittsburgh has more bridges than Venice) and used two funicular railways to ascend and descend Mount Washington. But I get ahead of myself!

The link above will tell you the names of the speakers. I’d like to summarize how many of them made me feel.

FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel gave a preview of his forthcoming book with his talk, “Is Christianity Un-American?” This promises to be an excellent read – I cannot wait for it to be released. Andrew has set out to completely dismantle the argument that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.

Friday evening was rather moving when a former preacher from East Tennessee came out publicly as an atheist. “Adam Mann” was one of the first people in The Clergy Project and he went to great lengths to conceal his identity. He had yet to tell his wife that he no longer believes in the fairy tales of the bible.

I hope his coming out to friends and family goes just as smoothly. It really is a serious problem for many clergy. Welcome to the ever-growing family Carter! We’ve got your back!

Professor Lawrence Krauss accepted his Emperor Has No Clothes award and gave a science-heavy talk that built on his excellent book A Universe From Nothing. He suggested that last year’s confirmation of gravitational waves might be used to see beyond the cosmic microwave background. Exciting stuff!

Unfortunately, my copy of A Universe From Nothing is still packed in a box somewhere. So I bought The Physics Of Star Trek and had Professor Krauss sign that instead.

The new Forward aware was bestowed upon Rafida Bonya Ahmed. She barely survived the Islamist machete attack that killed her husband Avijit Roy. Her speech was inspiring and helped to explain the major problems facing atheists in Bangladesh. I certainly never had to fear for my life while living in Texas; so the atheist bloggers and publishers in Bangladesh deserve mighty praise and even more support.

Professor Jerry Coyne – who won Emperor Has No Clothes at the Hartford Convention – spoke on “Evolution & Atheism: Best Friends Forever.” My recent move thwarted me again, I couldn’t get my copy of Faith vs. Fact signed. Professor Coyne has given a interim blog post about the Convention.

Lastly, Professor Daniel Dennett spoke on “Has The Dam Broken? Omens and Worries.”

It should be obvious how much I love the FFRF National Conventions. There is always interesting and inspiring stuff – I only scratched the surface here.

I have intentionally left out the group tour of Fallingwater. That amazing part of the weekend deserves its own post after I have sorted through my photos.

The 10th Anniversary Of “The God Delusion”

Posted on Sunday, October 2nd, 2016 at 1:39 PM in Atheism, Books, Religion by Garstor

Today Hemant Mehta at The Friendly Atheist published about the 10th anniversary of Richard Dawkins’ excellent The God Delusion.

Like so many other thousands of people, The God Delusion was a major factor in my de-conversion to atheism. One day I will write a detailed, personal account of that process. For now, I want to express my gratitude to Professor Dawkins for his incredible work.

The near future of the world will be better as more and more atheists are able to come out openly. Today’s youth are rejecting organized religion in record numbers; soon they will be raising their own families and hopefully the new generation will be equally non-religious. Meanwhile, the older generations are facing the inevitability of death.

The future is secular. I can’t wait!


Posted on Sunday, October 2nd, 2016 at 1:28 PM in Personal by Garstor

The worst of it is over! I am now living in Etobicoke again. I used to live near Eglinton Avenue and Martingrove Road before I moved to Texas. Now I am near Dundas Street and Islington Avenue. I thought that I would have to lose my last month of pre-paid rent in Hamilton. Happily that was not the case.

I can see the Moneris building from my balcony. I am only a five minute walk to work now. This is going to be a huge boost to my life. I will have much more free time for getting back to the gym and diving deeper into 3D art.

The Rogers cable internet speed is a pretty sweet upgrade too!


Much unpacking and organizing remains! I’d better get back to it.