September 2018 catch-up

Hi folks,

It’s been a while.

The last six months have been an emotional journey, but I seem to be slowly arising from the troughs.

I’m still enjoying my “new” job. It’s been nine months now since I started. My current employer is much better than my previous one and has provided me with everything I need to succeed in spite of my poor eyesight. So I now have four monitors. One is a giant 34″, two 24″ and a slightly smaller 22″.  Mostly I program through the days using C#. This leaves my eyes too tired to read, so I haven’t read a book since March (probably the longest I’ve gone without reading since I started school in 1970!). I doesn’t also help that I’ve had several sutures in my eyes rupture over that time.

My weight has seen also ups and down. At first I was doing about 90 minutes of walking a day, but I found that this made me so hungry that I would continuously snack on sugary things to keep my energy levels up at work. Now I have reduced my walking to about 50 minutes and have found that I can control the urge to eat sugary snacks.

In respect to this blog, I obviously find little time for my long term interests. So I have decided to write more about computer programming. I know that this will be sad news to you, but I still have the urge to write and computer programming fills my life, so it seems the best compromise. With time I do hope to return to writing on art and graphics etc. This said, I may write thoughts on TV shows and films. I find that when I am home, resting my eyes, I tend to listen to shows and films a lot, occasionally watching them through slitted eyes.

Anyway, hope you are all well,

Greg

 

PS: I set the story image as a door, because I see myself as stepping through into a new period in my life.

A quick catch-up with my friends and followers

Hi all,

I hope that you are all well. For me, the past several months have been emotional and full.

In my last post, I mentioned that my mother-in-law was passing. She has now departed this life. It was as distressing as you would expect. Pam had very much been the centre of our extended family. Anyway, I won’t say much other than to say that she will be sorely missed.

I have also passed my six-month probationary period in my current job. During that time I have undertaken several training courses, worked my butt off and have managed to achieve a temporary higher duties allowance. The down-side of that is coming home completely exhausted and having no energy or time for creativity. On the bright side, I am learning C# as part of my job. A little investigation has shown that C# can be used for scripting with the Unity engine. In the past, I had played around with the Unreal engine and C++, so I guess once I get C# under my belt I can expand my horizons.

All this said I have come to the conclusion that in order to have the energy to be creative, I need to improve my stamina. Given that besides the tiredness caused by being mildly vision impaired but performing a vision intensive job, I am also obese, am pre-diabetic and have sleep apnea – yep, a few things to work on – improving my stamina will be a task and a half.

Anyway, to resolve at least the obesity/pre-diabetes/sleep apnea trinity I am going to have to lose weight. I currently weight about 150kg. Again, most people who know me IRL will scoff as they have heard me say this before (alas, too many times). I will just have to persist. Otherwise, I will never have the energy to follow my creative dreams.

I also need to get back to my reading (again, been too weary). I have two of David’s books on my list to read. I also need to get back to reading all your blogs.

Anyway, please look after yourselves and hope to see you all around soon. :)

Greg

 

Sorry, won’t be writing many articles on my blog for a month or so

Hi all,

(this is a bit of a feeling-sorry-for-myself post)

Some of you may have noticed my absence recently. Some of this has to do with work obligations and some with the rapid decline of a family member.

As any regular readers will know I secured myself a job in November following two years of unemployment. I’m enjoying it thoroughly. The downside is that it takes me 95 minutes to get to work of a morning and about the same to get home. It is also longer hours than previous jobs. Given my Keratoconus, I come home tired with very sore eyes, making sitting at a computer more or less impossible. Work also wants me to develop a new system for them and this requires learning a new programming language. So I need to do that probably on work time and my own time on weekends. Hence even just normally I would be absent a bit.

Secondly, I am devastated that my mother-in-law, Pam, has asbestos-related lung cancer. Pam was diagnosed around the same time that I got my new job and her decline has been rapid. The last few months have been appalling (as you can imagine). Given that I am one of those lucky people with a really nice mother-in-law, I feel the oncoming loss quite heavily as does the rest of my family.  I know that my wife Nicole is really struggling. My daughter Rhiannon (only 13) is being a real pillar of strength for Nicole despite her own grief. I am proud of her. If you are religiously inclined (don’t mind the flavor) then prayers would be appreciated.

Thirdly, as you may also be aware I volunteer as the promotions officer for Education in Dance and Theatre Arts. Now, when I can least manage it, they want me to take all their syllabus videos and make promotional extracts from them. I wish that they had asked me to do that when I had hours and hours of free time during my unemployment. However, duty is duty.

In respect to my tutorials on the Blender hair, I am going to have to put that project aside for a couple of months. But I will get back to it because it is something I really want to do.

In respect to singing… David, I have started practicing “Learning to Fly”. Jeni – “Hallelujah” seems like a great fit and I am also working on it. Singing is easier for me to do on a weeknight when I get home because it doesn’t require me using my eyes.

My writing has also stalled. Same reason – eyes too tired when I get home and little time of a weekend. I am going to have to work out how I can address this.

Anyway, wy whinge-fest is over.

Look after yourselves and I will try to visit your blogs when my eyes are not weary.

regards

Greg

 

 

Our first day in #Rome

This 2015 trip was our second visit to Rome. Our first had been in 2002 with Globus. Back then we had stayed in a hotel not far from the Colosseum. The room had been small and the hotel staff arrogant. We wondered how our Trafalgar Costsaver experience would differ.

The question was quickly answered when we reached our hotel, the Ergife Palace Hotel, at around 4 pm. It was spectacular. Admittedly, not anywhere near as close to the center of Rome as our Globus accommodation, but the room was more than twice as large, better fitted out and the hotel had an operating pool.

On the topic of hotel pools, it is worth noting that many Italian hotels close their swimming pools after summer, regardless of the temperature. We noted this a number of times – stinking hot days but closed hotel pools. I cannot imagine how they think this will satisfy international guests. This said, it was September, 40 degrees, and the Ergife Palace had its pool open. If I can help it, I will never stay anywhere else in Rome other than the Ergife because they understand international travelers.

Once our luggage was in our rooms, the coach zoomed us off to our first adventure in Rome. This was a coach tour of the key parts of the city.

After a while, we disembarked from the coach to take a look at the 2,000-year-old Pantheon. This is one of those old buildings that has had a few incarnations, starting life as a pagan temple and ending us as a Catholic church. For me, the most interesting thing about the Pantheon is that it has the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.

 After that we did a walking tour that stopped off at the Trevi Fountain. Now take a look at Rhiannon’s face when we make her stand in the viewing spot at the fountain.

She looks distinctly unhappy as compared to the family shot. There is a story behind that.

As you may tell, the Trevi Fountain was undergoing maintenance work while we visited and there was scaffolding everywhere. The crowds were massive and there was only one spot set aside for an individual, crowd-free photograph. The problem was that there was no line for that spot. Instead, people had to physically push there way in and out. Rhiannon waited patiently for 10 minutes, but every time it looked like she would get a go someone else pushed in. So we told her that she was going to just have to do the same and force her way in. “That’s impolite,” she said, a big scowl coloring her features. We argued with her, saying that she had no choice and eventually she capitulated to our will but was not happy. To be honest, I cannot blame her. We’ve tried so hard to raise Rhiannon with good manners, and now we totally contradicted ourselves. Such hypocrites we are! By the family shot, ten minutes later, she was her normal cheerful self again.

As the sun began setting the guide drew us to a lovely square called Piazza Navona. This square was built on the site of the 1st-century Stadium of Domitian, the ancient Roman equivalent of an athletics arena. The guide told us to buy dinner here but warned us that the nearer the Piazza any restaurant we chose, the more expensive that it would be. She also recommended trying a traditional Italian pizza. So we wandered down a few old cobbled lanes and found ourselves a quaint little pizzeria.

Finally, it was time to return to the hotel, but our guide had one more surprise for us: a night visit to St Peter’s Square.

It was great, albeit we were almost mowed down by lunatic drivers on several occasions. Alas, the photo does not do it justice.

And now back to the Ergife Palace to collapse into our beds, ready for another early start. Well, to be honest I posted heaps of pictures and an update on my Facebook page. :) Then sleep.

 

Thanks for reading another episode in my holiday saga from 2015.  My work on hair in Blender is continuing, albeit with many a failure. When I get something worth sharing in that department, then I will.

regards

Greg

 

Time in this 3D hair journey for 3 Rs – Research, Review, Reflection

A long time ago I was a teacher. Besides the normal three Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic), I always followed with a second three – Research, Review, Reflection. For me, these were consolidation exercises that deepened my understanding. Each of you will have to do this for yourselves. I just thought that I would share my experience of it in learning about 3D hair.

Research

I watched several Blender and Photoshop hair tutorials on YouTube. I don’t need to list them as you can simply do the same search that I did. For each I pondered what it had to offer and whether it added to my current knowledge. I found that each had their own slightly different approach, so I decided which suited me. Actually, I’ll probably do what I always do, use a hybrid approach that combines bits from each.

Next, I felt that I needed to look at an actual hair model created by someone else. I did this by picking a hair model in DAZ Studio, rendering it, exporting it to Blender, examining the textures. (NOTE: If you do not currently have DAZ Studio then I urge you to get it. It is free and it is superb. A good artist should have an array of tools and this is a must-have in my opinion.) A few things I noticed in doing this was that the artists group all their objects together in one mesh. Notice I say mesh and do not mention curves. This is because any of them that use curves probably convert them to a mesh, maybe UV unwrap and apply the texture. I’ve checked, and it is my understanding that you can bake a texture to a curve. So I am guessing that the baked texture is what is applied to the subsequent mesh.

Review

I know the following:

  • How to make hair textures
  • How to make those textures transparent in places (occlusion maps or alpha layers)
  • Making strands, curls, etc in Blender using Bezier curves
  • Making strands in Blender using meshes (here is a link to a video on that)
  • Node setups in Blender cycles for the textures
  • Converting curves to meshes
  • Baking textures
  • Exporting/Importing between Blender and DAZ Studio.

Reflection

Funnily enough, I feel a bit intimidated. Every time that I look at the craftsmanship of others, be it writing or art, I feel so inferior. I’m not going to let that stop me, but it is how I feel. I also feel stupid posting things on here like I know what I am talking about. But I know that we are all here to learn. The reason that I mention these fears is that I know so many other people that have those very same fears and let the fears stop them. Don’t. (NOTE: If you ever feel the same way, could you please comment.)

I am so worried that my first hair model will look absolutely awful.

I am also worried that it won’t import properly into DAZ Studio.

How will I start? Perhaps find a simple hairstyle on a Google image search. Lots of straight lines. LOL.

I think I understand all the principles. But art is more than technicalities, it is judgment and understanding and… well… art.

 

Conclusion

Thanks for reading. Hopefully my next post will see me actually beginning the hair model. :)

Greg