New Year, New Life

•February 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

February 2, 2015 — New Year, New Life.

So I spent the last 30 years in and around Houston, TX. Apparently, I’m done with that. On January 1, 2015, I boarded a flight with a one-way ticket from Houston to San Jose.

Now, I’m out here in California — Silicon Valley — working for the big G of all places. Six months ago, I had absolutely no inkling that such a future awaited me.

ggb-from-ferry

There are things about Houston and about my old job that I will miss.

I will miss having a big house, and paying very little money for it, and instead having a small apartment, and paying a fortune for it. I will miss having a garage of my own. But, it’s not that big a deal.

I will miss working on the linux kernel, or, at least on drivers for the kernel. In my new job, that does not seem to be something which I’ll be doing.

Tex-mex.

I will miss TX/RX Labs probably most of all. That place made Houston bearable for me for the last four years. You might think that Silicon valley would be home to some hackerspaces that would fill that void, but you’d be wrong. It’s kind of funny. In Houston, getting a hackerspace going is pretty difficult, because everybody who lives there has a garage of their own because real estate is pretty cheap (compared to the rest of the country). So, if you try to start a hackerspace, there’s going to be a period of time when you’re starting out when people who drop by kind of take a look around and say, “eh… I’ve got better stuff in my own garage,” and so it’s hard to get them to join up. But, at some point, you hit a tipping point, where you eventually get the space to a level that is beyond what almost anyone is likely to have in their own garage, and then things start taking off (I’m drastically understating the amount of work involved here.) And then, people start realizing that the big CNC mill they’ve got in their garage might get a bit more use if it were to hang out down at TX/RX, and also, that gets it out of the garage. I saw this kind of thing happening over the last four years with TX/RX Labs in Houston, and now it has grown into a truly world class hackerspace with something like 30000 square feet of warehouse space filled with all sorts of woodworking, metal working, electronics, computers, you name it. If you happen to find yourself in Houston and are into hackerspaces or the Maker movement at all, go check it out.

By contrast, here in Silicon Valley, things are quite a bit different. Almost nobody has a garage, and if they do, it’s probably a tiny one car-wide affair. So, any space at all that someone can come up with is likely to be appealing to a certain kind of person. But, because nobody has a garage, it’s also the case that nobody has a CNC mill sitting in their garage that they’d like to loan out to the local hackerspace. And then there’s the matter of rent, which is guaranteed to be sky-high, barring some local rich philanthropist helping out, so that means the membership dues are also going to be on the high side. And of course the place is absolutely crawling with software guys, and the hardware guys tend to be *computer* hardware guys. So the hackerspaces here tend to be on the small side, and *very* heavy on the software side of things, with a smattering of electronics and near zero woodworking or metalworking. There is Tech Shop, but they are a commercial venture, and not really like a hackerspace — there doesn’t seem to be the same sense of community that the hackerspaces are likely to have. Another cultural difference is that it seems like a lot of people at the local hackerspaces have “startup fever”, for lack of a better term (and, to be fair, I haven’t spent a *lot* of time, so I may be rushing to judgement there.) People don’t seem to be at the hackerspaces out here in order to have fun. They’re there to network with other people, and to work on their startup project. So the vibe is in general a lot less fun, and a lot more business, or so it seems to me.

As for the job, it’s … different. Boy is it different. The people are in general, rather smarter than the average bear, which is pretty nice. So far so good, but I haven’t been here for very long, not long enough to really know what the hell I’m doing yet. That is, I know what my job is, but I don’t necessarily know how to actually do it yet. There is a lot of custom software to learn the ins and outs of. But change is good, right?

2015 will be an interesting year.

Framing Vigo

•October 30, 2014 • 1 Comment

October 30, 2014 — Back in 2007, on a whim, with Halloween fast approaching, I decided to try painting a version of the painting of Vigo the Carpathian that appears in Ghostbusters II. After three days of squinting at the low-res VHS screen caps available on the net at the time, the painting was something like complete. At 36×60 inches, it’s quite a large painting. I never got around to framing it. A suitable frame of that size is prohibitively expensive, and anyway, what is “suitable” for a painting like that?

This year, I decided to just make my own frame for it.

I wanted to make something ornate, macabre, and unusual. I vaguely imagined a fancy gilt carved wooden frame with all sorts of hellish imagery. My idea was to fake this sort of thing by gluing plastic halloween toys and 3D printed objects onto the frame, covering them with epoxy, and maybe a bit of papier mache, and then painting the whole thing with gold spray paint.

This is how it came out:

Vigo framed

The structural construction is rather simple, and probably not what real framemakers do. Four 1×5 poplar boards cut at 45 degress with a compound miter saw form the main structure of the frame. Glued to these are four sections of some moulding, also cut at 45 degrees with the compound miter saw. These are connected together with four “L” shaped pieces of thin plywood, glued and screwed onto the back of the corners.

Once the frame was structurally complete, the decorations began. I found some little plastic skeletons at HEB (HEB is a grocery store around where I live). I bought all they had, which was 3 packs of 4 each. I think of them as smurf skeletons, as they’re about that size. These I hot-glued to the vertical sections of the frame. Then, I sort of coated them in little strips of toilet paper soaked in a mixture of water and Elmer’s glue, in an effort to make the skeletons appear to be carved from the frame and part of it, rather than just glued onto it. It’s debatable how successful this was, but I think it looks better than if I hadn’t done that step.

Between the skeletons, I glued little 3D printed pentagrams which I had designed in openscad. At the bottom corners, I glued on a section of a 3D printed models of the “terror dog” from Ghostbusters.

skeletons-and-pentagrams

frame-before-painting

At the top of the frame, I wanted, instead of the cherubs you sometimes see on these ornate gilt frames, some kind of evil, sexy “cherubs”. Something like what’s on the cover of the “Days of Purgatory” album by Iced Earth. So I started looking around on the internet for freely available 3D printable nude models, which it turns out there are surprisingly few, freely available or otherwise, given that this is the internet we’re talking about here. I settled on one I found on Thingiverse and printed 3 of them scaled to about 110mm in height.

demoness-trio

batwings

Of course I needed some big batwings for these ladies, and for that I turned to metaprogramming openscad, and created a batwing skeleton model generator which allows left, right, or pairs of batwings which may be at varying degrees of openness, from fully unfurled, or open to mostly furled or closed to be created. I printed 3 pairs of wing skeletons for the 3 plastic ladies. To make the webbing between the bones of the wings, I carefully cut and bent some stiff watercolor paper out, and glued sections to the plastic wing bones. With a little practice, this worked very well. Once the wings were constructed, I hot glued them to the frame, then hot glued the little plastic ladies onto the wings.

Once all the little plastic doodads were in place, I slathered on the epoxy. I used some West System epoxy that I had sitting in the garage for the last 2 years left over from my cyclekart project. For awhile, I was afraid it was too old and wouldn’t cure, as it was slightly discolored compared to how I remembered it (yellowed), and seemed to be taking too long to cure. This would have been a disaster, but it was only the fact that it was a comfortable 70-something degrees outside instead of the 100-something degrees it was when I had previously used this stuff on the cyclekart, so it just took a little longer to cure than I was expecting, but it did cure just fine.

After a few layers of epoxy, I hit it with the gold spray paint. I tried to do some “antiqueing” kind of effect, by putting some brown acrylic paint on with the idea of letting it get down into all the nooks and crannies and wiping it off the “tops” and putting more gold paint on the tops, but the acrylic paint wasn’t sticking to the gold spray paint, so I abandoned that idea and just left it with the gold spray paint.

demoness-2-3

demoness-2

demoness-1

terror-dog

Animated procedurally generated gas giant texture

•August 30, 2014 • 1 Comment

August 30, 2014 — Here’s an animated gif of a procedurally generated gas giant planet made using gaseous-giganticus.

Animated procedurally generated gas giant

Gaseous-giganticus may be found within the Space-Nerds-In-Space code base.

If the above image is partially hidden or doesn’t animate, it’s probably because wordpress sucks. Here’s the imgur link: http://imgur.com/mqCwMeI.

Procedurally Generating Gas Giant Planet Textures

•August 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

August 28, 2014 — Here is a slide deck from a talk I gave at a local game developers meetup:

Procedurally Generating Gas Giant Planet Textures

Sample output of Gaseous-Giganticus program
 

 

2014, New Year’s day Space Nerds In Space update

•January 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

2014-01-01 — Space Nerds In Space update.

Building atop the foundation laid by Jeremy in getting modern OpenGL code to fit into the Space Nerds In Space codebase, we now have alpha-blending texture-mapping shaders for lasers, torpedoes and explosions working.

Additionally, the damage control robot can now actually repair stuff, and those repairs have an effect. There are lots of other little changes over the last month as well, but those are the big ones. Here’s a video:

New painting: Central Park, NYC

•December 29, 2013 • Leave a Comment

December 28, 2013 — Scrounging around earlier this month looking for some kind of gift to give my brother and his wife, I ended up making a new painting of Central Park in NYC, based on a photograph I took in 2007 while on a trip with them.

The painting:

central-park-painting
16×20 inches, Acrylic on canvas.

My favorite part is the base of the fountain where the light is reflecting off the wet material:

favorite-part-cp

Here is little animated gif showing progress as it was created (you may have to click on it to get it to animate):

cp

And the photo I took in 2007 on which the painting is based:

central-park

Hope they like it (but it’s ok if they don’t.)

Space Nerds In Space update, November, 2013

•November 22, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Just a little Space Nerds In Space update video for November 2013:

 
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