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

Packing Up The LEGO Models

Posted on Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 at 7:49 PM in Lego, Personal by Garstor

LEGO boxes ready for packing

Nothing has quite driven home the fact that I am leaving Texas and my lovely home like packing up my LEGO models.

I had dedicated my entire second bedroom to LEGO and role-playing games. It was almost a shrine to being a geek. As you can see in this photo, I kept all the original boxes for the LEGO.

The Architecture models broke down surprisingly well. Even the largest ones, Robie House and Fallingwater did not require much dis-assembly. The Sydney Opera House didn’t need any taking apart at all! The same could not be for most of the Star Wars models.

The Super Star Destroyer, Imperial Shuttle and the Tantive IV all made me cry a little as I took them apart and put them back into their boxes for packing. Rebuilding them in my new place – wherever that will be – is going to be fun all over again at least!

The Ahmed Mohamed Incident & Texas Stupidity

Posted on Sunday, September 20th, 2015 at 10:23 AM in News, Religion by Garstor

Texas - Days without being a national embarassmentOh boy was I pissed off when I read about what the Irving school district did to Ahmed Mohamed. I live in Irving (my property taxes go to the Coppell school district though) and even though I have a general distaste for Texas, this felt like it hit close to home in more than a geographic sense.

I have no doubt in my mind that this is nothing more than anti-Muslim bigotry stirred-up by hateful, small-minded idiots.

Such are the types of people that Texans – though many are intelligent and caring people – seem to prefer electing to represent them. The current Irving mayor, Beth Van Duyne, campaigned around not “allowing Sharia law into Irving.”

I was disappointed that Bill Maher (whom I frequently agree with) supported the school district. Maher does clearly draw a distinction between the 14-year old geek who happens to be Muslim and the radical Islamists that routinely – and correctly – draw his ire. However he is completely misguided when he says, “…and the people at the school thought it might be a bomb. Perhaps cuz it looks exactly like a fucking bomb.”

Obviously the school did not think Ahmed’s clock was a bomb. Multiple teachers saw the clock and did not react. The school was not evacuated and the bomb squad was not called. I cannot accept that line of weak sauce reasoning. I have seen enough of the South’s ill-concealed racism to believe that the school was reacting to Ahmed’s name and his religion. Sure, the authorities deny this.

The clarifications that Mark Cuban adds are very interesting. Chris Matthews’ outburst was unexpected and funny but also spot-on.

It was heartening to see so many support Ahmed. That was a nice counter-balance to the spectacular stupidity from the school and from moronic bigots like Bristol Palin. George Takei, Satya Naedalla, Mark Zuckerberg and even President Obama.

Many have called out the support of technical companies like Microsoft and Google as crass marketing gimmicks. That might be true to an extent. However, I think that these companies are also sending a message to the rest of America’s youth – and America’s political leaders. “Hey! Listen up! This is the creativity, curiosity and technical knowledge that we want to encourage and eventually hire.”

This is about more than fear, racism and religious bigotry. This about the United States miserable and worsening performance in the STEM fields of studies.

Foundation Repair

Posted on Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 at 9:00 PM in Personal by Garstor

My fears have been justified! A house inspection prior to selling this place revealed foundation issues. This is very common in the Valley Ranch area. So yesterday, I had the repairs done.

It was a fascinating process. I wish I could have taken video rather than just still images. It was rather disconcerting to watch my house lift upward relative to the ground. The noises were mildly disturbing as well.

corner_pierThe workers first had to clear the shrubbery in front of the house. One of the piers had to be placed under my front door patio; so they had to drill through the concrete there.

This pier is the corner where the foundation had sunk the furthest. Ultimately, they needed to push down 28 feet before the piers reached stable ground that could support the house.


front_door_pier This is the pier under the front door patio.

The pneumatic drill played havoc with the glass break sensors in the alarm system.

Once the work was finished, the workers reset the shrubs and patched the holes in the patio concrete. Really great work, I am impressed!

The expansion joint on the side of the house was nearly 3/4” wide. After the work was done it sealed up nicely.

I have a few more pictures of this work in the My Life In Texas Flickr album.

The Kim Davis Furor

Posted on Sunday, September 6th, 2015 at 5:36 AM in News, Politics, Religion by Garstor

I cannot write a post about the hypocrite bigot Josh Duggar and not mention the other recent religious maelstrom around Kim Davis. What a saga this turned out to be.

Some criticism against Davis turned needlessly personal and ultimately off-topic. I got tired of that pretty quickly. I agree with Libby Anne’s thesis here, but I do disagree with the example that she used.

I do not see the use of the Southern drawl as being “classist.” I do not see this as mocking the way that Davis talks and I certainly do not see it as a barb against her intelligence. This simply sells the point of who is being represented here.

I definitely disagreed with the memes that attacked Davis as a whore or a bitch or questioned why any of her husbands would marry her in the first place. Such things are completely irrelevant and just mean-spirited. Questioning the obvious hypocrisy of her supposedly Bible-based position is absolutely correct and valid.

My biggest wish is that Kim Davis had been incarcerated and fined. Judge Bunning noted that a fine alone would not incentivize her to do her job. He was correct at the time – many people worried that fundie believers would simply setup a GoFundMe account to cover her expenses – however, GoFundMe has changed their rules to preclude such a thing.

Both Dan Savage and The Friendly Atheist summed everything up rather nicely.

Now, we’ll just see how long she’ll stay in jail. The main thing is that marriage equality continues to gain ground and acceptance despite the efforts of bigots.

The Rest Of The Story

Posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 at 7:42 PM in Personal by Garstor

As posted on August 14, I happily left employment at Avanade. While disagreement and dissatisfaction with the management levels is certain a valid reason to resign, I had a few other concerns that I was afraid to blog about until now.

For the last 7+ years, I have lived and worked in Texas on a visa. As it turns out, there is a limit to how often my visa can be renewed. It first expired back in April of this year but Avanade got it extended. However, to remain working in the United States, I would have to renew my Australian citizenship and apply for a completely different visa.

I’ve been working on this option for the last several months. It has been quite annoying.

The initial plan was that I would be able to work from Canada until I acquired the new visa. This quickly became untenable. I realized that finding an apartment and high-speed internet access for only 2-4 months would be impossible. In both cases, I would end up breaking a contract and paying fines. I would also have to continue paying the mortgage on my house and pay a service to check on it. Lastly, my pay would still be deposited into my American bank – I would have to pay fees to access my money while living in Canada.

Faced with that prospect and the aforementioned incompetence of the management chain; I chose the path of resignation. It is time to return to Canada (or possibly Australia).

I do like my house and I will miss it. Being a homeowner was definitely an experience that I did not expect to have.

Ending The Hardware Blues…For Now…

Posted on Saturday, August 29th, 2015 at 8:12 PM in Personal by Garstor

The story continues…

Ever since I built the 3D-dedicated machine, I had heard nearly constant clicking sounds. If you know anything about computers, you are already shaking your head…

It turns out that the Seagate Barracuda drive that I had purchased is notorious for this. Ugh! I was using this drive to store the My Documents folder as well as some apps so that the 1 TB Samsung SSD would not be used up too quickly.

Big mistake! Reads and writes to the drive took hours – that is not an exaggeration.

The computer went back to not booting. This time it was the POST detecting the S.M.A.R.T. drive failure. So it was actually trying to protect the system.

Tonight, I removed the power and SATA-3 cable from the drive and replaced it with my older 110 GB Ocz SSD drive – what I was originally blaming all my problems on!

So things seem to be completely stable for now. I have most of my applications reinstalled.

It will be great to get back into 3D and Photoshop again!

Singin’ Some Hardware Blues

Posted on Saturday, August 29th, 2015 at 8:52 AM in Personal by Garstor

At the beginning of the year, I built a dedicated computer for 3D and Photoshop work. Previously, I was using my primary server because it had 24-cores and 64 GB RAM. Rendering with GPUs is the wave of the future, so I wanted something capable of that.

Things have slowly crumbled since building that new machine. Occasionally, it would not boot properly – often going through the Windows Automatic Repair process. Usually a reboot would fix it. Despite all of this, I managed to get many, many hours of playing Dragon Age: Origins again as well work with LightWave, Carrara and Photoshop.

But the degradation continued. For the last month, I have barely used the machine at all. It became a risky bet whether the machine would even switch on. Very frustrating!

I blamed many things; the Texas summer heat (the bedroom that the computer is in does get hellishly hot) or the SSD that booted Windows (I have had bad past experiences with SSD drives) were my prime targets. Enter my chummer Brent!

Brent is the best damn troubleshooter I know. He is tenacious too. With his help, the BIOS was updated and Windows 8.1 was replaced with Windows 10. But the Automatic Repair was still all-too present.

The Q-Code from the Asus motherboard strongly suggested RAM problems. It appeared that I could boot with just 16 GB of RAM installed but adding more would fail. We played Musical Chairs with the DIMMs and every combination of two DIMMs resulted in successful boots. Perhaps it was a power issue, even though I had a 1300 W power supply? I didn’t have a properly matching power cable to provide more juice to the motherboard.

The less-than-useless Asus phone support blamed my RAM since it was not on their qualified vendor list. I bought new Patriot RAM that was on their list – still no boot. It wasn’t the RAM. Also, I won’t give Asus another dime of my money in the future.

Brent was undeterred and he kept researching. There is no way I would have committed so much time to this. I owe him an entire brewery of beers for his effort.

Eventually, it became clear that it was the second video card. I could boot the computer with my full 64 GB of RAM using just the first video card. Brent even worked with the Gigabyte support team (who are about a billion times more helpful than Asus) to help start the RMA process so that the defective card can be replaced.

Thanks Brent!

The Josh Duggar Schadenfreude

Posted on Friday, August 21st, 2015 at 7:32 AM in Atheism, News, Religion by Garstor

Although we should not take pleasures in the misfortunes of another, sometimes it simply cannot be resisted. The Duggar family has done such spectacular damage to basic human rights and dignity that I won’t hide the smile on my face caused by their so-called plight.

The revelations that Josh Duggar – in addition to being a child molester – has also cheated on his wife obviously gave a speed boost to the downward spiral ride for the family.

Duggar epitomy of conservative values

This sniveling worm’s public statement tries to put the blame for his actions on an “addiction” to pornography. There is no such thing as porn or sex addiction according to the DSM-5. This is just another way to shift responsibility instead of being a real man and owning one’s actions.

Friendly Atheist commenter Holytape puts it far better than I though:

Not true, Joshy. Don’t beat your self up like that. Sure you’re a hypocrite. Sure you’re a miserable piece of dog shit with the moral compass, of… well you. Sure you campaigned to make people’s lives miserable for no other reason that your narcissistic desire to control other people’s happiness. But you’re not the biggest hypocrite ever. You’re not that important. Most people don’t know about your work at being an asshole. They only know of your existence because you were the first one out of that clown car they call your mother’s vagina. So people really don’t care enough to make you the biggest hypocrite ever. And don’t worry, by this time next year, everyone will have forgotten your transgressions, because they will have forgotten about you entirely.

It will be wonderful when the world has completely forgotten about this brood of hypocrites. That day cannot come too soon – I only wish that all the other asshole Christians would be forgotten too.

Society would benefit tremendously.