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Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

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January was a long year.

I meant to get a couple more posts out last month. Clearly that didn’t happen. I blame the stomach bug, the weird work stuff, the weather, and a solid week where I didn’t want to do much of anything at all of any kind.

On the upside, I did make a loaf of bread all on my own. I set a goal late last year of doing something about my interest in learning to make my own bread, and here we are:

My first loaf of bread

Letting it sit for an hour to cool was torture, let me tell you. I wanted to chow down IMMEDIATELY.

It turned out okay, albeit a bit dense because I accidentally did a bit more kneading than intended. Not bad for a first try, though. We had that thing devoured within 24 hours. For instance, it made a helluva grilled cheese sammich:

Grilled cheese sandwich made with first loaf of bread

Apologies for the blurry photo, I’m still a lousy photographer.

Seriously, that was the high point of the month. On the Blender side, I learned to make a snowflake and took notes on how to do things like animated fireworks and so on. There’s a project coming, I’m just not yet certain the shape and scope of it yet. News to follow once there is some.

I also got around to assembling the two Nanoblocks Pokémon kits gifted to me over the last year or so, a Vaporeon and an Eevee. Immediately afterward I insisted that nobody buy me any more Nanoblocks kits. There are simply too many small fiddly bits for my hands and eyesight to manage. Ugh.

Nanoblock Vaporeon

These Nanoblock builds are not even remotely sturdy, with some bits hanging on by one lone post. Ugh.

Other than that, I’m just keeping on keeping on. I have a book review and two music reviews to get out there; look for those in the relatively near future.

Come On, See The Noise

I started learning Blender with two goals in mind. One centers on toy ducks, as one might naturally expect. The other centers on music visualization.

Since my earliest days “tuning out” (sitting and listening to music with big headphones on, letting my mind wander) I pictured patterns and colors and what-not. Perhaps now that I have tools to do so I can try creating some of that effect in video form. Perhaps.

This is an early test of my ability to play with lights and colors to music:

Keep in mind that this is literally my very first anything-at-all along the way toward my actual goal. The camera is static, I rendered at a super-low resolution to get the frames made in a reasonable timespan, and I clearly need to experiment with the attack/release values when baking sounds to F-curves (hence the jittery quality of the oval lighting changes). But hey, it’s a start.

Technically speaking: I intend to actually carve up and pre-process my source audio going forward. It’s one thing to tell Blender “hey, use 250Hz to 500Hz for this bit” but perhaps better to say “hey, use this copy of the audio file that’s been pre-tweaked to get the best results from this material node.” Also? Every tutorial I’ve watched so far about doing music visualization in Blender has ignored the fact that stereo exists. I think I can bring something to the table in this regard.

Downloads Zero

Perhaps you’ve heard of Inbox Zero. The idea being that one’s main email folder can become unwieldy rather quickly and the best way to stay on top of it is to aim for nothing remaining in the Inbox that hasn’t been processed in some fashion, be it by deletion or delegation or sorting into a “do this later” entry elsewhere.

I’m pretty good at keeping my work email under control. (Let’s not talk about my Gmail and my Google Apps accounts, because those interfaces are absolutely terrible if you want to manage your email in a non-Google-approved way, ugh.) The rule at work is, if I can see a scrollbar in my Inbox, I have too many messages in there and I pare it down one way or another.

On the other hand, I’m very very bad about maintaining another popular dumping ground: The Downloads folder on my computer. Judging by what I’ve seen in the course of my job I’m not the only one, mind you, but I can’t do anything about people who download the same Excel sheet twenty times and end up with ‘Critical Company Accounting Data (15).xlsx’ and so forth. All I can do is start looking after my own pile of mess.

There’s no mystery as to why this happens, really. A big part of what we do online is take stuff offline for our own use. Documents. Software installers. Media files. We download it, we run it or look at it or watch it or whatever, and then we’re done with it. “I’ll have to remember to put that in its proper place later,” we tell ourselves.

Ha! As if.

Let’s be honest: The bulk of it is Recycle Bin fodder. By the time you need to install that program again there’ll be a new version, or the program will be obsolete and you’ll have to download some other program’s installer anyway. You watched that video once, got a good laugh out of it, and… there it sits, undeleted and unsorted, until you get a new hard drive probably.

Don’t call it a “new year’s resolution” because ha ha no we don’t play that game in this household, but I started getting my main Downloads folder under control this weekend. Music is sorted where it belongs, installers are organized for safe keeping (or deleted), and so forth. My goal: Downloads Zero.

(Oh yeah and I have a stack of old hard drives with their own Downloads folders to work my way through as well. Whee!)

Let’s see how it goes.

Welcome, 2020

The original point of this don’t-call-it-a-blog was to chronicle my life. Well that certainly hasn’t happened. And with my memory as fuzzy & useless as it is, there’s no way I can backfill what happened over the past year, let alone decade, in any useful fashion. I might add some bits & pieces of recent history as I go but I make no promises about this.

I have newly-repaired teeth (okay, gums), I acquired a new skill (disclaimer: actual skill yet to come, I’m still in the early stages), and I have some goals to work toward (including a possible revival of an old, old project). I don’t know if “hopeful” is the right word to use here. Hope isn’t the emotion I’m feeling. It’s more like… “fukkit, what else am I going to do with myself?”

Let’s see if that’s good enough.

Yay Food

I didn’t expect this to take nearly an entire week, but here we are. Please enjoy the short video, “Yay Food“.

It started with a pun, of course. Then I had to jot down enough lyrics to be worth the effort. Then I had to source a MIDI. Then I had to turn that into a WAV file. Then I had to go into Blender and add more ducks to a copy of the old donut tutorial workspace. Then I had to learn to do HDR lighting. Then I had to sort out the animation. Then I had to do the render… which took basically five days. Then I had to put it all together in Adobe Premiere Elements, which took several hours. Then I had to upload, etc, etc.

All that for a two minute joke video. Note to self: Stick to still images from now on, eh?

Another Blender Video Incoming

On Christmas Eve I was struck by terrible, marvelous inspiration. Before bedtime that very day I kicked off rendering animation frames in Blender, having already sourced and prepared the music and text, then assembled all the elements in the 3D environment. My original plan was to post the completed video this month but it turns out that rendering ~3300 frames at 1280×720 resolution will take longer than expected on my poor GTX 1070 graphics card. Maybe for New Year’s? Maybe.

Layout view in Blender of objects for current animation project

Yes, I am reusing the donut and coffee cup from the Blender Guru tutorial. It’s work I don’t have to redo, okay?

It’s only a two minute video. Among other things, this suggests I won’t be doing Cycles-based animation in Blender as a regular thing. (Now, music visualizer videos with the Eevee renderer? That’s another story…)

Render of duck, donut, and coffee cup from just before the midpoint of the video project

The duck is new, actually. I started over after making the one in the previous video. Meet the Mk4 plastic duck toy!

This video won’t even be done when Blender is finished with the rendering because then I’ll need to load it all into Premiere and add subtitles. (Look, it’s either subtitling or you have to listen to my singing voice. Subtitles are the better option, I assure you.)

So yes, there’s more 3D stuff coming. Eventually.

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