Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Model fight!

My friend and I are having a 3D modelling challenge. It won't be your typical challenge, as we aren't modelling the same thing.

My topic will be...robots! Specifically, I'll be designing a robot factory (interior, exterior views) along with multiple lines of robots (helper, combat, transport, etc).

My goal is to use SketchUp for all 3D modelling; rendering is still up in the air. 3D Studio MAX + Vray, Modo, or some of the free renderers will be explored.

Our goal is to have no less than weekly updates on progress, ideas, rough drafts, hurdles, workarounds, techniques, etc.

Post-degree studies

So I've been accepted into Texas State's Graduate School for Computer Science. My goal is a Master's of Science in Computer Science, and it's going to be a long row to hoe getting there.

Since my first degree is non-Computer Science, there are some prerequisite courses that I need to fulfill (introductory C, Assembly, Calculus I and II already taken):

  • C and C++ Programming (intermediate)
  • Fundamentals of Computer Technology (sounds easy, but is Junior level course)
  • Computer Architecture
  • Data Structures
  • Program Translators OR Operating Systems
  • 6 hours of advanced computer science electives
  • Discrete Mathematics
Once I complete these courses, I will have what is called a Certificate for Computer Science. From what I understand, the delta between a BS and a Certificate isn't huge, and while not exactly equivalent to a BS, the Certificate allows one to either get a job in the computer industry or enter graduate school.

After these I need to take the GRE, then onwards and upwards into Graduate School.

Now my son is coining words!

We try to incorporate multiple foreign languages in our daily life/instruction/relationships with our kids. We're not polyglots, but we can do servicable vocabulary in French, Spanish and a little German. There's also that Russian degree in there somewhere....

While learning Spanish, my five year old has come up with a new word: delici-ocho, which I take to mean eight times as delicious.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Pickin' and Grinnin'

I've wanted to learn how to play guitar for a long time. I come from a fairly musical family, more art-oriented but music played a pretty good part (plus marrying the most beautiful violin player in the world helps). I took piano lessons from our church choir director for a few weeks...nothing came out of that but a few songs, which is no fault of hers.

I finally bit the bullet and bought some guitars. Now that the boys are old enough to appreciate my delicate strumming and/or shredding, I figured this would be a good time to ease them into music.

Now, I'm no pro, but feel free to check out Powderburn, Thomas Brady or Havilah Tower if you want to see people who know what they are doing.

Here is my electric. I bought a Squier starter pack from Guitar Center and got a screaming deal on it. Please ignore my mouth in the first picture - I got snapped while humming some notes.

Observant readers may notice some other instruments behind me. A guitar from Russia (20,000 rubles!! Wait, that was only $20...) that is unplayable without some neck work and my grandfather's National Triolian dobro from the 30's are up on the dresser, and just peeking over the bed is my new acoustic, but more on that later.

Here I am shredding to Ode to Joy. The Fender book that came with the electric is pretty good. I've learned a few chords and three notes each on the first two strings. The book teaches you how to read music, not just bang out some chords.

Below is my acoustic from Rondo Music. A friend and I found a good deal, and just wait for our golden country sounds to follow.

You may notice some silver stuff on the body of my guitar. Yes! We took our youngest to a Biscuit Brothers concert at Dougherty and I had Buford and Dusty sign it. If you have kids who are in to music, or learning about music, or if you are a local musician (they have locals on their show) please check out their Emmy nominated PBS show.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Hico...the next Fredericksburg?

We also stopped in Hico, which is famous for being the place where someone who everything thought was Billy the Kid died.

In the little square by these signs were quite a few antique stores, some very nice, some just okay. This was the reason that one of the storeowners said that Hico was the next Fredericksburg. It also had one of the blandest Mexican places - Jersey Lillies, and with "Jersey" in the title, can you really expect that much from their interpretation of Mexican food? The salsa was strictly North Texan - no heat at all, very Pace-like/tomato-based. Margaritas? Definitely from a machine and mix, and it was questionable whether or not they actually contained tequila. The men's toilet was totally unable to be flushed - it was like the chain was off the stem, but I wasn't going to fix it...I could barely breathe!

He hates these cars!

So we're driving back from Dublin and all of a sudden we see some crushed cars on the side of the road.

No signs, no buildings around, no nothing - just some crushed cars hanging around.

Dr. Pepper factory/museum

This weekend we happened to be in Central Texas and we stopped by the Dr. Pepper Museum and Bottling Factory...place...in Dublin, Tx.

If you haven't had a Dublin Dr. Pepper, you don't know what your missing. That's pretty obvious, since there's no way for you to know if you haven't had one. Maybe you've heard of one? Seen one in Phoenicia Middle Eastern Deli or Rudy's Barbecue?

If you knew that Dublin is the last place that actually makes Dr. Pepper with Imperial sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, then maybe you do know what you're missing. Or maybe you think you know, but are still hesitant to take the plunge and, uh, be a Pepper?

Anyway, I'm normally not a Dr. Pepper fan, but I love Dublin Dr. Pepper, as it is known. I can tell a difference in taste, and it is great! The bottles have migrated down here and maybe farther - one can also order them online. The real treat is Dublin Dr. Pepper from a fountain. It's really, really good, but I've only seen it in the towns surrounding Dublin.

This was in me!

The other day I bought some 1x4 lumber for the trim around the door and windows for the playscape we our building our boys. I had one of them, so I had the Home Depot NASCAR-certified race car shopping cart, which doesn't leave much room for lumber.

When I was maneuvering the cart around the van I kicked the end of the 1x4 stack with the side of my calf. I felt a jolt, but I figured I must have hit the corner of the wood. Later that night and the next day it was itching, but I thought it was just the scratch.

Then I felt my leg and I could feel something under my skin! Nothing was showing on the outside, so my wife (whose sister is an accomplished surgeon so maybe something runs in the family...) started working on my leg. Below is what was in my calf with a penny for scale. None of the splinter was outside my skin!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Oddjob's hat...SOLD!

I was cruising IMDB and found this little tidbit in their news section:

Oddjob's Hat Sells at Auction

The most terrifying hat in movie history went under the hammer for $33,600 in Los Angeles on Saturday when James Bond villain Oddjob's derby was sold at auction. The steel-rimmed hat, worn by actor Harold Sakata, who played henchman Oddjob in 1964 film Goldfinger, was bought by 007 memorabilia hunter Anthony Pugliese III. He plans to display the famous derby at a new pop culture museum in Florida. Other highlights of the Julien's Auction sale included a belt Elvis Presley wore during his 1972 concert in Honolulu, which sold for a staggering $66,000 - over six times its expected price, and the red gown Dustin Hoffman wore as a cross-dressing soap star in Tootsie, which fetched $26,400.

Can anyone name a movie that parodies/pays homage to Oddjob's hat? Name movie and scene, please. I have one in mind but I won't post it in the comments yet. Penalty points for Googling.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Why am I still here?

So it's almost 1AM. I have a day full of interviews tomorr--later today.

I don't know if my suit is clean. Pressed? Uh oh.
I don't know what shirt I'll wear.
I don't know what tie I'll wear.
I don't know if I can find the tie I think I want to wear.
I'm really not that good at ironing.

And I'm posting to my blog. At least my priorities are...uh...present?

Free books online

So I'm reading Slashdot the other day and I find an entry pretty deep in the board where someone mentions that in their sig(nature) (for their Slashdot user account) that they have a link to their website of free books.

I don't log in to Slashdot so I don't have anything set up for my account, thus I don't normally view sigs. Intrigued, I go to this user's posts and look up their history to get the address of this website that may or may not be worth it. Why am I doing this? I'm uncertain, but I really, really like to read. Maybe that's it?

Anyway, I find The Assayer. Click on Browse by Subject to see what he has collected. I've skimmed it very briefly, but it looks like it has quite a bit of books. I'll check out the Math/Programming sections sometime this week/end, hopefully.

If Science Fiction and/or Fantasy is more your bag, baby, please check out Baen Books. Downloadable books in a variety of formats. I've read only about five or six from Baen, but I've liked the ones I've gotten.

I coined another new word

Apocellipsis: The final set of ellipses that indicates the end of a large body of written work. An ellipsis within a sentence contains three dots, like this: Dare I get...a Monster burrito? If a sentence ends with an ellipsis, proper punctuation practices demand four dots: So if I eat this I'll be.... Yes, you'll be full.

I submit that Apocellipses contain five dots, so you really, really know the end is here.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Google SketchUp

Spaghetti and I were talking about 3d modelers. The programs, not the people pushing the pixels. He's a little bit Maya, I'm a little bit 3D Studio MAX.

A program that I've been playing with is SketchUp. It's a CAD/Rapid Prototyping/visual design/architecture/whatever application of which I've really grown fond. But what's this? It's interface isn't as f'ed up as Maya. It's modeler doesn't have the options of MAX's modeler. It's renderer doesn't look as good as Lightwave or Mental Ray. Wait - it doesn't even have a renderer.

So why do I like it so much? The interface is clean and I can work very quickly in it. To me, modeling in it is very intuitive. I'm nowhere near Stephen in it, who is actually using it to make money, but I'm getting there.

Google "recently" bought SketchUp, presumably to speed the generation of 3d content to the Google Earth plugin, and being Google, they've released a free version. It's basically stripped down version, but for what I do (model, export to jpg), it's fine. Try it here.

I've attached a few things I've done. I mainly use it for patent artwork, and some stuff I can't post yet, but here are some tidbits.

This is for a front page of a patent presentation I gave our group in Singapore.

This is a work in progress for our photo printer.

Here is when I was fiddling around with the skeleton for the playscape that we are building for our boys. The parts are all to spec re: actual lumber measurments.

More hail damage

A little after mid-April we had two hailstorms in our area. I have written previously about the damage around our house. Last week we had to go to San Marcus to speak to an advisor in the Graduate School for Computer Science. On the way we drove through the outlet malls and saw some of the damage from the storm was extensive and still evident.

The worst place was Dress Barn Woman, so we pulled up (they are basically the only ones that have my size also) and got a few pics.

A lot of the older stores have these Spanish style terra cotta shingles, and they were missing everywhere. No store had a pristine roof. We saw a lot of damage to signs and the actual stucco/cement walls looked hammered.

Mama mia, redux!

When we are entertaining, a favorite dinner (dare I say a favorite...experience?) is of Italian origin, unlike us. We start with homemade focaccia bread on which we slather roasted garlic, pesto and brie cheese. This really could be the main course as we all stand around the island with red wine, eating and talking. This is followed by stuffed shells and salad and more wine. For dessert, we've done a few different things, but lately standard operating procedure has been for me to make a cheesecake served with espresso.

One of our evenings we were going to do the whole shebang but it fell through. We had some of the fixings, so we had to march onward to prevent waste.

We like to grow our own basil for the pesto, but this years "crop" hasn't been doing so well. We actually only have one plant this time. If you find yourselves in a similar predicament, Gentle Readers, I've found that Central Market has bunches of basil for $.99. We load up on this when we need to.

Here are some in-progress shots.

If you need to freeze the pesto you make, put it in a glass bowl with some kind of lid and pour a layer of olive oil over the top of the pesto. It makes a good seal.

Coke Blak

So I think I've already made it known that I'm a Pepsi man. Also being a man of science means that I run an experiment or two. This time, thanks to the Cobra, I tried a Coca-Cola Blak.

I've also made it clear that I'm a coffee man, even before Pepsi. A drink that promises a cola mixed with "coffee effervescence" can't be too far off the mark, right?


This drink has three strikes against it:

1. It's a Coca-Cola product.
2. It contains high-fructose corn syrup.
3. It contains Aspartame.

Nice one, Coke. You forgot to add "with cancer effervescence" to the feature list. The taste isn't even that good. I can detect the Coke, which tastes flatter than usual, but the coffee is weak at best. No buzz. Not recommended.

But what do you really think?

My wife snapped this pic of some dude's truck. Check out the yellow bumper sticker. You can't really see it in this picture, but the far right sticker is the popular, "Hell Yes I Voted for Bush!"

Feast or famine

It's been a while since my last updates. A lot of stuff has been going on, so prepare for an onslaught of content, or something like that.

I'm planning to start working on the blog more often and not have my typical glut of content bookended by a vacuum.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Busted! And a retraction.

So it turns out that I've heard of Spoon before.... My amazing wife used to work for Dr. Barnett, the orthodontist where I'm currently having some work done. The lead singer of Spoon was a patient of theirs when she worked there.

Oh, snap!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

More music

So I'm a big Smashing Pumpkins fan, and my claim to fame is driving down from College Station to see their Houston show where someone threw a shoe at Billy Corgan and hit him in the mouth. That turned out to be the last Pumpkins show in Houston for about five years.

The former drummer of Smashing Pumpkins has formed the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex, which I'm listening to as I type this entry. Good drumming, good chilling out music, good stuff. Check it out, and thanks to Joe for the tip.


This time, it's not about The Tick.

Check out Spoon, a good Texas band that I've been listening to frequently while doing the dishes and driving to work. Check them out, and thanks to Stephen for the hookup.