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

Happy 149th Birthday Canada!

Posted on Friday, July 1st, 2016 at 6:50 PM in Personal by Garstor

Happy birthday to the best country in the world!

Alright, I’m biased. I grew up here. But I do love Canada and am proud to be Canadian.

I Did Not Expect This Today

Posted on Monday, June 27th, 2016 at 7:10 PM in News, Politics by Garstor

One day after the wonderful first anniversary of the Obergefell decision and SCOTUS gives us this excellent decision.

This stupid Texan law was a naked assault on the rights of women. It served absolutely no medical purpose in spite of the gibbering, spittle-flecked blubbering of Re-thug-licans to the contrary. It was nothing more than kissing the ass of the dying evangelical christian movement.

I hope this deters other states in the South that have implemented or are considering such backward, anti-women, anti-choice laws. I hope this is one more nail in the coffin of the current GOP.

The United States desperately needs reform across all its halls of power. This is a step forward.

Happy 1st Anniversary To The Obergefell Decision

Posted on Sunday, June 26th, 2016 at 12:06 PM in News, Politics, Religion by Garstor

Today marks one year since the SCOTUS Obergefell decision legalized marriage equality across the United States.

Suspiciously absent is the god-spawned smiting we were promised.

No-H8

Everybody should have the right to marry the person that they love. It is simple as that.

EDIT: I want to link to Camille Beredjick’s post at Friendly Atheist. A celebration of major victories is important; but work remains. There is much prejudice and discrimination that still must be overcome.

Newest Books Read

Posted on Sunday, June 26th, 2016 at 7:52 AM in Atheism, Books by Garstor

Three weeks ago, I said I hadn’t done anything worth mentioning. That wasn’t quite true. I’ve continued – slowly – going through my book collection.

Alas, my commute time to and from work has not been as productive as I would like. I usually snooze.

imageNonetheless, I have recently finished reading two more books from the ever-growing atheism/religion/politics section of my shelves.

Dan Barker’s newest book is GOD: The Most Unpleasant Character In All Fiction. The title is, of course, taken from the well-known opening tirade in Chapter Two of Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Barker breaks down his book into one chapter for each one of Dawkins’ adjectives. He provides dozens of verses from the bible to support every single one of those adjectives. It is both astonishing and disturbing that those words are so easily proven by the very words that are supposed to entice someone to believe in him and think of him as “good.”

However, Barker raises the bar. He finds additional adjectives to apply the moral monster that is The Lord Jealous.

imageNext up was Darrel Ray’s book The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture. It is an interesting extended metaphor of faith and religion as a biological virus. It surprised me just how far Ray was able to go with this idea.

The book does not focus on any one religion. Ray uses terms like the “Catholic virus” and the “Islamic virus” when he needs to get specific but then refers to the “God virus” for broader general concepts. He is able to apply concepts of evolution – just at they apply to biological virii – to explain how God virii adapt and change over time to continue infecting other minds or to protect themselves against other God virii “invading” their territory.

On one level it is obviously tongue-in-cheek; but on another level – as one ponders the ideas a bit – it makes a lot of sense.

Both books are well worth reading.

Poser 11 Pro

Posted on Sunday, June 19th, 2016 at 7:51 PM in Ray-Tracing by Garstor

New weapons added to my 3D arsenal!

I have had my eye on Smith-Micro Poser Pro 11 for some time. That interest has increased as my passion for DAZ Carrara decreased. The renders I created with Carrara actually use the Poser format. I have bought a lot content since I started and didn’t want to waste that investment; but I just cannot stand using Carrara anymore.

DAZ has abandoned Carrara but Smith-Micro maintains and improves their software. So my allegiance has switched.

I also bought some training videos so that I could get up to speed quickly. I cannot wait to start sharing some renders on Flickr. Poser Pro transfers scene assets into LightWave – that could open up some interesting opportunities too.

Incommunicado

Posted on Sunday, June 5th, 2016 at 11:12 AM in Personal by Garstor

Weeks have slipped by again with little worth mentioning here.

Work continues to go well. Very busy at times. This week is my turn to be on-call. I’d definitely like to move closer; that would make things much easier on me and provide some additional free-time.

I’ve continued toying around with World Machine and LightWave. So far I have not created anything worth showing off.

Hopefully something blog-worthy happens soon.

Photo Walk: Royal Botanical Gardens

Posted on Monday, May 16th, 2016 at 3:58 AM in Personal, Photoshop by Garstor

On late Saturday afternoon, my friend Gabriela drove us over to Hamilton’s Royal Botanical Gardens for another photo walk. It was cloudy – but not as bad as New York – and a bit chilly for mid-May. But it turned out to be totally amazing!

Macro shot of a dandelion puffI had never really tried my hand at nature photography before. It seems to be one of Gaby’s major passions and some of that rubbed off on me. Even with just a basic kit lens on my Pentax k-X, I was trying to get some macro shots of flowers. I took so many pictures that I very nearly filled the 8 GB SD card in the camera.

Based on the style and number of photos, I opted to create a new Flickr album just for The Royal Botanical Gardens. These just did not seem appropriate to add to the Hamilton album.

In addition to the trees and flowers, the animals were unbelievable. Gaby insists that I was good luck in bringing out such a variety. The chickadees and chipmunks are used to people feeding them, so they were particularly fearless. We also saw squirrels, a raccoon, muskrat, woodpecker, red-winged blackbirds, swans, ducks, Canada geese and probably more.

Laying down in the grass for a unique shot angleI really liked how this one turned out. Something about this part of the park made me lay down in the grass to shoot just over the top of the blades. There was lots of potential to play with focal depth here.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to think too much about it. My camera auto-focused on the grass so the trees in the background blurred beautifully.

May 14 2016 PhotoWalk - RBGI cannot end this post without showing the chickadees feeding from my hand. It was an assault really; so many of them were trying to land that I felt like O’Hare Airport. As soon as one flew off, another landed. I could have stayed like that for awhile and took hundreds of images. Apparently, they like sunflower seeds best of all – so next time, I will have to come more prepared.

I have other images that I did not upload to Flickr, so more shots will appear in the album. I will most definitely aim to return to the RGB in the future too; there is much more to see and capture in an image there.

This experience has made me want to seriously consider adding some lenses to my kit or maybe even upgrading the camera body entirely (the k-X came out in 2009). The style and technique of nature pictures is also quickly climbing on my list of interests.

New York, New York

Posted on Saturday, May 14th, 2016 at 1:30 PM in Personal, Travel by Garstor

The trip went well and I am very glad that I went. As expected the Hilton Grand Vacations was an extremely hard-sell that had to be resisted. But I am getting ahead of myself.

All of this began while I was still in Texas. Hilton Grand Vacations contacted me because I had stayed at one of their properties on a business trip. At first I had thought that their offer was an inexpensive stay at a newly-built property and they wanted to guests to evaluate it before an official opening. Since I had not been in the Big Apple since I was a teenager, I figured, “Why not?”

I had booked some time off of Avanade last year for this trip. But United Airlines fucked me over and cancelled the entire flight due to “crew availability.” This was just a few hours before my cab arrived to take me to the airport. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed-off about that.

Then came my Avanade resignation and moving back to Canada. More delays. This was a time-limited thing and also featured extra fees for cancellations. So I really wanted to go. I cut it to the wire with only one week remaining before the offer expired.

As it turns out, it was a timeshare program that they were trying to sell. I may do a separate post on that program just to get the word out about it.

My goals were simple. Since I only had two nights and two days, I wanted to visit the Empire State Building and Hayden Planetarium. Anything else would be nice extras. I landed at LaGuardia airport at about 11:00 AM last Monday and caught a cab over to Hilton’s West 57th Street Club.

A word about New York City cabs. Use them! First and foremost, you do not want to face New York City traffic. I am a proud atheist, but the traffic here nearly got me praying again! Treat your cab ride as part of the Big Apple experience, you won’t regret it. Second, they are surprisingly reasonably priced!

Empire State Building from West 34th and 5th AvenueGiven my experience in Dallas, I expected to pay upwards of $100 to get from LaGuardia to West 57th and 6th Streets. I paid $40 and that included a tip for the driver. To get from West 57th to West 34th to visit the Empire State Building, was only $9 before a tip!

The ESB was my first stop after dropping off my stuff in the room. It was the primary reason for my visit. My family spent a couple of days in NYC when I was 14 or 15; we visited the 86th Observation Deck but did not have the time or money to visit the 102nd Observation Deck. That was going to be rectified on this trip!

Empire State Building looking southMy Flickr album for this trip shows that the weather was not willing to co-operate unfortunately. It remained cloudy and drizzled rain every day. Bummer; but a good excuse to return one day!

In the photo to the right, you can just barely see the Statue Of Liberty (center-right of image) through the mist. The new One World Trade Center spire stabs through the clouds, completely obscured.

One very strong recommendation about the Empire State Building tour; buy the tickets online pay the extra for express service. The tickets are good for a year and the express option is absolutely worth it.

I recommended using the taxi system above. But I also did a lot of walking because that is a great way to see any city. After taking the picture above of the ESB from the corner of West 34th and 5th Avenue, I decided to walk the 23 blocks back to the hotel.

That allowed me to pass by Rockefeller Center, the Central Branch of the New York Public Library (made famous in Ghostbusters), St. Patrick’s Cathedral (I took photos for 3D reference but did not put them on Flickr) and Trump Tower. Once I reached West 57th Street, I kept going north until I was in Central Park. Some of my favourite photos came from Central Park.

Times Square 1Aside from the weather, I only had one other minor disappointment. I ended up getting to the Hayden Planetarium and the American Museum Of Natural History late (after the 2 hours hard-sell timeshare presentation). The  complex closes at about 5:45 so I could not attend all of the programs. At least I saw the Neil deGrasse Tyson program Dark Universe.

More walking after the museum closed. I was wandering back to the hotel when I recognized the structures of Times Square several blocks away, so I kept walking. I wasn’t down there for very long, but I took a couple of pictures there.

Checkout time at the hotel was 10am, on Wednesday morning I debated trying to do some more sight-seeing or heading back to the airport. The weather being what it was, I opted for the airport. My original flight was not until 8pm, but I managed to arrange an earlier trip home.

Definitely worth a return visit. Just without the hardcore sales pitch!