Friday, September 25, 2009


i used to be cheerful and happy-go-lucky.
i think?

what happened to me?
i try. i resolve. i recommit. and i'm still the same.

to be fair, i'm really in a bad mood in only one of these.

Monday, September 21, 2009


i've never known much about byu's 100 hour board other than it exists, they answer your questions in 100 hours, and that i briefly dated a former writer. tonight i asked a question (i'll let you know when i get my response), then have been browsing the board when i should have been doing the dishes.
one of the most popular questions was (paraphrasing), "what nation would each of the fifty united states be?" i enjoyed the list even before i got to "minnesota."

(l'afro, i'm still checking to see if i come across any of yours)

Alabama: South Africa. Demographically speaking, similar.
Alaska: Ukraine; it's freakin' cold and out there geographically.
Arizona: Egypt; hot, desert-like, the fashions of both ancient Egypt and AZ peeps (at least the ones I know) are eclectic and cool. And the girls are pretty cute, you know- Cleopatra and all.
Arkansas: Pretty much any random third world country (big-time generalization, sorry all y'all southerners).
California: Babylon. No doubt. For it shall fall. Yea verily. Don't get me wrong, I love Cali, but that's where the most evil is concentrated per capita.
Colorado: Chile. Beautiful vistas, parts cold, parts hot, almost uniformly mountainous.
Connecticut: Kyrgyzstan. Let's get the pronunciation right, people. And because Kyrgyzstan has the world's largest natural growth walnut forest. Sweet walnuts.
Delaware: By the wonders of television, you can be magically whisked away to... Chad. Hi. We're in Chad.
District of Columbia: Rome, right before the huns hit en masse. Corrupt senators, narcissism and pure self-interest in the name of government.
Florida: Cuba. Ummm... check out the demographics.
Georgia: Georgia. (BWA-HA-HAAA... I amuse myself)
Hawaii: Didn't Japan legally purchase Hawaii awhile ago? Ever actually BEEN to Pearl Harbor? The signs are in Japanese, THEN English. What's wrong with this picture?
Idaho: Italy under Mussolini. Pure totalitarianism.
Illinois: Oman. Cause OOOOOOhhhhh Man... it just is. It's like the circle of intuition.
Indiana: Poland. Geographically, everything seems pretty similar: situated right south of a large body of water, really just one big city, always kind of in the middle of stuff, but more by accident than anything else.
Iowa: Central African Republic. Smack dab in the middle of the continent, not really significant in any meaningful way, just kind of there.
Kansas: Oz. Strange tornados randomly drop houses on middle-aged women, creepy little men sing songs about lollipops to complete strangers, sporadically things go in and out of technicolor.
Kentucky: Palestine. They sho does loves they feudin'.
Louisiana: Mexico. You only go there to get drunk, see women that are also drunk, doing things that only drunk women do, party all night long, and contract strange diseases. Where do I sign up?
Maine: Scotland. Way up in the boonies, to the point where you have weird language changes (or a lack thereof) and beautiful countryside. Ahh... to be back in the highland.
Maryland: Norway. If the coast were stretched out, can you imagine how HUGE that would be? Anyway, beachfront property. Different climates, granted, but it's still beach, even if there's a little snow/glacial mass in between you and the sand.
Massachusetts: England. Closest ties to British isles, where we first landed, all that. Plus they've got pretty sweet accents, like brits (you know, different, but both cool).
Michigan: Guinea. And not just cause it's the original home of Snowflake the white gorilla, it's also been the scene of brutal oppression and fighting between the Fang tribe and the Bubis, and includes an island formerly known by the delightful name of Fernando Po or (even better) Fernando Poo. Just like Michigan.
Minnesota: The Holy Roman Empire. Benevolent, wonderful, glorious, set on and destined for complete world domination.
Mississippi: Brazil. The whole thing subsists on one huge river running through the middle.
Missouri: Garden of Eden. Heck, why not-- it's actually THERE, right?
Montana: Antarctica. NO ONE lives there.
Nebraska: Burkina Faso. Just because the names of their capital cities sound the same. You know, "Ougadougou" and "Lincoln." Go ahead, you just have to say them a couple times out loud, you'll hear it. No, really, just keep trying. Louder. Yeah, you hear it now? Good.
Nevada: Gomorrah, just for vegas, baby. Evil.
New Hampshire: It's like Portugal. You know, next to some other nation/state that really DOES matter.
New Jersey: Cambodia, for obvious reasons. Don't pretend you don't know what REALLY goes on there.
New Mexico: Columbia. A brief history of New Mexico should shed some light on why: A 40-year insurgent campaign to overthrow the New Mexican Government escalated during the 1990s, undergirded in part by funds from the drug trade. Although the violence is deadly and large swaths of the countryside are under guerrilla influence, the movement lacks the military strength or popular support necessary to overthrow the state government. An anti-insurgent army of paramilitaries has grown to be several thousand strong in recent years, challenging the insurgents for control of territory and illicit industries such as the drug trade and the government's ability to exert its dominion over rural areas. While Santa Fe steps up efforts to reassert government control throughout the state, neighboring states worry about the violence spilling over their borders. No kidding. It's just getting ugly down there.
New York: Holland. It's main city is somewhat of a cultural definition- Amsterdam is quite rich culturally, and boasts a sort of central appeal within Europe, though it is geographically peripheral. New York City has a similar depth to it culturally, and certainly stands out as a prototypical American city, representing the nation, but then the rest of the state is windmills, dykes, and farmland. Well, farmland anyway.
North Carolina: India. Rich culture, prestige, exotic, and don't eat the cows.
North Dakota: Iraq. Just like Bush, I PROMISE there are nuclear weapons somewhere within its borders, and I bet with enough UN inspectors I could find them.
Ohio: Sparta. They're just so feisty.
Oklahoma: The Anasazi nation. All of a sudden, inexplicably, everybody left, leaving behind a barren wasteland. Good ol' okies... at least they ended up in Cali, even if it is in Bakersfield.
Oregon: Bhutan. Mountains. Cold. Yetis. Beaches. Wait, no beaches in land-locked Bhutan. But there most certainly ARE yetis in Oregon, I've seen them. Loping gracefully across the plains, resplendently beautiful in all their glory... Ah to be among the herd again...
Pennsylvania: 1800s Transylvania. Amish people, backwoods lifestyle, c'mon, it's like the American equivalent of Dracula. They're the living dead, people.
Rhode Island: Vatican City. Are you kidding me? We allow this tiny little pathetic excuse for a territory representation in government? Yeah. Rhode Island gets a say in US gov, the Vatican sends reps to the UN. Ok, the UN doesn't really do anything.
South Carolina: Haiti. Nice beaches for vacationing, good ol' civil strife. (c'mon, civil war people)
South Dakota: North Korea. Dictatorship, aspiring nuclear power, wait... does South Dakota really exist? I know ND does, but really now, what is there in South Dakota?
Tennessee: Vatican City. The guy with the biggest hat wins.
Texas: You're telling me it ISN'T its own nation?
Utah: ancient Israel. HELlo, can we GET any more mosaic? I can't drink what beverages? How many steps can I take on the sabbath? I'm confused. I thought it was the spirit of the law... guess I'm a sinner.
Vermont: Switzerland. Neutral little land-locked pansies.
Virginia: Canada. People go there on vacation, but if you press them, they couldn't tell you why they went there. There's really just nothing there. I mean, it's Canada.
Washington: Panama. It rains a lot. There are poisonous frogs. Lots of nudity. Sweet, sweet grunge scene. Ok, I don't know where those last three came from. But it does rain a lot.
West Virginia: China. Only confirmed Mothman sighting locales.
Wisconsin: France. Stinky cheese, the women don't shave their pits, and lousy sports teams, except for that little fluke in 98. Yeah, I said it. Fluke. I also want to make it absolutely clear that I'm bagging on the Packers. The Packers suck.
Wyoming: Australia. Lots of ranchers, wide-open spaces (I hate the dixie chicks). Sort of like the rest of the english-speaking world, but different in weird ways. That's right, I said it. Weird.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

i was there

smirnoff vodka's new ad campaign shows multi-racial good-looking twenty-somethings getting together to do crazy things. things like going ice blocking, filling a swimming pool with foam rubber, or blacking out the windows to an abandoned gas station then throwing a dance party inside. of course, they have plenty of hard liquor, too, as the campaign rests on the assumption that it is impossible to have fun without their vodka. the voiceovers of the hot singles have them describing these amazing events as if they can hardly believe they actually did it, ending with "i was there." and, with a few bottles of smirnoff vodka, there's a good chance they may not be sure they were actually there.

interestingly, most of these activities seem to happen around provo on a regular basis, defying the marketing agency's postulated alcohol requirement: ice blocking was a regular summer activity at centennial apartments, the commercial's dance party was similar to most byu stake dances, and my sister's gymnastics building had a giant foam pit (ok, that was when she was 9 and in minnesota). and this past friday night, i got to participate the latest fun and dry event, the world's largest game of capture the flag.

tim told me that the byusa (vote for himes and maevis!) was attempting to break the world record for the largest game of capture the flag. the established record is 1200 participants, and byu was having official guiness people there (the record book, not the beer) with a rumored goal of up to 2000 people. the day of, i was feeling rather ambivalent about it, but jaime encouraged me to go, and i knew that i'd be glad i did.
it was byu students, but my spring class got me an official id that is good until 2011, and, incredibly, i soon found my brother amidst the mass. i didn't realize how much i have grown in the years since graduation, but watching the students rally cheers around their team's blue or white flag, it was apparent that i'm not 23 anymore. and that's cool; to everything there is a season.

we signed a waiver, listed our names for an official count, and grabbed a glow-in-the-dark wristband. tim and i were both yellows, opposing the blue team. the numbers weren't as high as the organizers had hoped--it looked like about 800--and we were encouraged to text all of our friends to come while they pushed the starting time back half an hour. pretty much all of my
friends have already graduated, so i didn't have anyone to invited. instead, tim and i debated the merits of the crowd mentality, watching how quickly people rallied around their arbitrarily assigned team color, some attempting to give braveheart-esque speeches.

while i don't know if we ever did break the record, the game was interesting. starting shortly after 9 p.m. at orem's cascade golf course, our playing field stretched from the 1st hole to the 8th. red glow sticks designated the jail areas and the field's dividing line (as well as a few greens and sand traps, which we were asked to consider "off limits.")
close together, we could see one another vaguely, but as we lined up along the glowing red boundary, it was an odd sight watching an army of faintly glowing blue wristbands emerge from the other end of the course, reminiscent of the pirate ghosts from garfield's halloween special, in way. soon they appeared at the other side of the line, and we all looked at each other. how do you run across when there is a solid row of opponents just a few feet from you?

i started patrolling the line like a sheepdog, just daring one of them to step out. and i caught one. but just standing in the safety zone was pretty lame. who wants to stand around during the world's largest game of capture the flag? down the line a ways were some less-guarded areas, and a few of us reasoned that the only hope we had was a mass attack.
i'm not sure how many ran behind me, but i made it about halfway into blue territory before i was caught. not that i had any clue where the flag was, anyway.

there was a surprising number of my team in the jail when i got there, and as we were out of sight from the front lines, i doubted that the urgency of our plight to escape was on the minds of our remaining teammates. a jailbreak or two happened while i was there, but as that only releases two prisoners and i didn't have any buddies coming for me specifically, it looked like i would be there for a while.

i planned to only come for a bit, as mark and i had other things going on that night, so i took off my wristband and quietly walked across the red barrier. as i was nearing the parking lot, i heard a swell of cheers, and rumors that the blue team had captured our flag. cool. i got to be a part of it. i had been there.

i'm planning a game of glow-in-the-dark ultimate frisbee like we did at fhe years ago.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

how to make a scorpion teapot

yeah, it's been a while since i posted. i missed me, too. august was, by and large, pretty great. i've got a handful of things i want to write about, if i haven't forgotten them already.

somehow, september is here and school has started. i'm taking two uvu classes to a) improve my skills and b) qualify as a "student" to work on byu's student animations. this spring, i took an "intro to maya" class at byu and loved every minute of it.
maya is a professional-grade program used to create just about anything in 3-D. it's pretty dang. it's also got a pretty dang steep learning curve. no iphoto-like easy interface here.

our assignment was to make a teapot, teacups, and surrounding environment. a teapot is a sort of unofficial mascot of the 3-D graphics world, as it was the first shape rendered in the computer (or something like that). several people have asked to see my little teapot, but just putting up the final image would be the destination without the journey (if you're one of those people, just scroll down to the end; it's there). i think it's pretty cool seeing how this all comes about, and it's sharing time.

our first assignment was to bring in some teapot sketches. like any good designer, i googled "teapot" to get some ideas, and, like googling anything, learned that the world of teapots was vaster than i'd imagined. i sketched a few of the more interesting designs, and my teacher suggested that the one on the right here would be a good choice. at this point, i didn't know what would be considered "too hard" or "too easy", so i took his word for it.
his only caution was that the spout would be a little too complicated and recommended substituting a more traditional one.

3-D design is made up of different phases, with people generally specializing in one or two areas.
  • modeling: creating the shape of the object (a teapot, grumpy old man, lovestruck robot, etc...) using basic geometric shapes and molding them accordingly.
  • shading/textures: designing and applying the look of the model. essentially, you're designing wrapping paper that looks just like woody's shirt, buzz's space suit, or little green alien toys' skin. and making sure that paper fits just perfectly.
  • rigging: assigning joints and how they bend and move to the model. our teapot just sat there, so we didn't get into this.
  • lighting: pretty much the best part of it all.
  • animating: again, the teapot is just a teapot. no jumping lamps here.
so, to model a teapot, you start with a sphere. click the "create: sphere" button and you're on your way. then you have to squish it, stretch it, and cut the top off so you can put a lid on it. that's a few days' work for newbies like us. but we felt pretty cool.
you can also see that maya lets gives you a top, side, and front view, as well as perspective camera that you can move in x,y,z to see whatever you need (disregard that sunset in the bottom left corner; i couldn't get that to go away for this example.

oh boy, i made a sphere.
and since my teapot is mostly spheres (handle, lid, legs), making a lot of spheres got me a lot of the way through modeling. which was good, because unlike my new friend ryan next to me, model and i didn't get along. i was never sure why maya politely told me i couldn't select that line, why shapes didn't bend like i asked them, or why far too many things disappeared when i said "remove selection." let's just say that i won't be applying any where to be a modeler.

as i was looking as this teapot, i noticed that the handle kind of looked like a scorpion tail. hmmm, a scorpion teapot.... tilt the pot forward a little and it looks like it's getting ready to attack. and that's more interesting that just a tea set on a tablecloth.
so, i modeled some legs and added a stinger on the end of the tail (and another atop the lid, just to carry the theme). despite the suggestion to add a traditional spout, i found a way to make a spout similar to one on the original pot, which i liked.

put them all together (once you've figured out how to group objects, so that your tail spheres don't all go floating off in different directions), and lo and behold, you have the skeleton of a teapot scorpion. this is where the different perspective views were helpful: working in 3-D, it was often hard to see if everything was lining up correctly. sometimes they were hovering apart, other times they were sinking into each other too far. flipping between direct "side" and "top" views was very helpful. ultimately, the rule is what my teacher said: in 3-D graphics, if it looks right, it is right.

and, at this point, you can ask the computer to show it with a surface, but the default is a dull gray. how exciting.
shading is, for me, about as much fun as modeling; with enough wrong moves, i eventually got the right look. i looked up some scorpions on google images, found some color schemes, and colored my teapot. wanting to make a nice teapot, i made it out of marble, able to alter the look and colors of the mineral veins and distribution pattern. i added rougher textures and slightly different colors where the legs and tail meet to show the cement that the different appendages were attached to the body (it's not a real scorpion, just a teapot, remember).
it doesn't look too fancy in the interface, but rendering the actual image was much higher detail.

and yes, little teacups as tribe of little scorpions to battle the big monster (and hooray for the duplicate function!) they're pretty shallow cups to drink out of, though....
while it looked like i was 90% done, we were reminded that the last 10%, lighting and fixing all the issues, can take just as long.
the first step was to create and environment. i found a picture from my trip to death valley last year (one of the few from that trip that was not lost in the great computer crash of '09), a sunset shot that pretty much dictated how my lighting scheme was going to look.
the bold orange sunlight created some interesting looks for my ground. everything seemed to glow as if they were standing on the sun, but when i turned the sand dark blue, then the orange light reflected a nice dark brown. cool.

now was the fun part: lighting. i added an orange sun to start with. interestingly, the shapes are, by nature (i guess?), extremely reflective, and by setting your render settings to a higher quality, you can see reflections in everything. pretty fun.

lighting in 3-D computers is the same art as lighting on a movie set. the theory is, anyway. from there, some aspects diverge pretty fast. i about died when i found out that lights only cast shadows if you want them to. i've spent hours trying to get rid of extra shadows on movie sets.... but adding key lights, back lights, fill lights, kickers, and everything else is the same, even if you get to choose what you want the light to illuminate (or not). so, while trying to comprehend a world with a new set of physics, i lit my teapot scorpions. in the shot below, all the red shapes are different lights.

finally, with the background added and the camera (the little green thing at the front of the plane) set, it's time to finesse the composition. overlapping helps create the illusion of depth, as do things diminishing in size in the background. but don't let it get too jumbled.

finally, you can turn your quality all the way up and do a final render. for this, i think it took about 40 seconds to render. on xing, the armadillo film i was working on, a mid-size render would take about 2-3 minutes (not quite enough time to get in a guitar hero song, but we'd try anyway).
the teacup in the foreground never fit how i wanted, so i actually took the cup and warped it into and ellipse, then broke apart the handle and just positioned the final few spheres to peak into the frame. if it looks right, it is right.

since this, i've worked on some dead armadillos, an over-imaginative girl with a rhino, and am starting on a ninja milkman and an arabian pizza delivery guy.