Smoke, Fire and Volumetrics

With the time that I had as part of my three day weekend, I managed to sit down and do some 3D (2D) creations. I did some still photos of some of the stuff that I wanted to focus on that is totally new in the latest Blender 2.71′s Cycles Rending. First came volumetric atmosphere, where you can make the air in the scene look all smoky, and add rays of visible light from a light source, and then came smoke and fire that was never before possible using the new Cycles render method. Both of these effects are almost life like, and could fool a person if you did not know what to look for in an 3D rendered image.

Oil Plant On a Diffrent Planet - Aug 27 2014 - Weblog Image

The above scene, my take on a oil refinery plant running somewhere on some distant planet, is my very first successful attempted at creating both smoke and fire in Cycles. I learned a lot from doing this scene: mainly that I should have been using a stable version as opposed to the nightly-build version what are bug ridden. Sure, the render times were in the hours, but my machine never crashed. So let that be a lesson to Linux users who are using APPs to contently installing/updating these nightly builds–sure, nice to have the latest, greatest, but they are not stable, full of bugs and are that–just test builds. Stick with the stable release builds!

See the tutorial that I used for Smoke and Fire on YouTube: “Blender 2.71 Feature Preview: Smoke and Fire in Cycles

Next is Volumetric Atmosphere, which my most favourite effect of them all. I am using Volumetrics as much as possible becuase I really like the real-world effect it has in an 3D image. This type of rendering is very taxing on any machine too, so it can take hours getting one’s masterpiece completed–but well worth the time it takes.

Dead Sphere in the Dark Aug 21 2014 - Weblog Image

Now that I figured out how to put it all together using Blender, I will be trying some ideas that I have been thinking about creating during my next long weekend coming up. Perhaps another animation, or two are in order?

It Has Been A Week In Hell, But I Am OK With That

As the old song from ACDC, 1977 “Hell ain’t a Bad Place to Be,” goes, just deal with it, and so as long as I accept everything around me, then I can move forward, and that is what I did. With more tragedy, I mustered myself and kept going, which was probably the stupidest thing I could have done (with from what has gone on, and the current state that I am in), as I am sure most people would have dealt with my situation a lot differently. I had two major vehicle malfunctions in a row. On top of that, errors with my work scheduling that left me with a week long period of no hours, then a weekend double shift, stacked one after the other.

Corn Along 88 Ave in Fort Langley BC - Aug 24 2014 Weblog Image

What would a walk in the country side be like without seeing corn fields! A shot of a corn field on 88Ave (River Road) in Fort Langley, BC, along the route of my 60 minute walk to work, and back home. Photo August 23, 2014.

The result of all of these events has led me to not having a working vehicle, and it could be this way for the next couple of weeks to come, maybe even longer. So the question I had to ask myself back on Thursday night was, “how do I get to work”? The problem, or major obstacle, is I live several kilometres from the nearest public but stop. Without dwelling on it, I just packed up my backpack with my work items, and started walking, hoping that I somehow will make it to work, and on time. The drive that made me do, rather than just phone in, is quite simply that I am still in my probation period. Here in Canada, an employer can let you go during the first 90 day period if they feel you are not the right fit. This is quite legal here. Regardless, I did not want to miss any work–simply because I need the cash. So I started walking.

The walking time from where I live to the nearest bus stop, at my best speed, is 55 minutes. I have not measured the distance out yet, but it is good walk, but a long one. My feet are killing me, I should point out. I am wearing a very bad of runners that were not designed for long walks, but when you are in the situation that I am in, you just boot-up, and go.

I have very little to say about Translink, and the public transit system. Simply put, what I can say about is that some of the bus drivers that I have met are top notch, and awesome, at what they do. As for the system, including its timetable, routes and weekly scheduling, I rate them as terribly inefficient, and not very working class friendly. Most industrial parks and business centres here in Langley Township either have none, or very inadequate transit service. For example, where I work there are many bus routes that pass by within a block, but none that cater to night-shift workers. My commute, including walking times, are two hours each way, and Sunday morning I had a three-and-a-half hours commute back home. And on top of that, I wait at work for an hour because the bus schedule stops two hours before my shift starts, and when I am off, I wait until 8:00am for the first bus back to Fort Langley-so an hour, or two, wait there.

Roadside Grave Marker in Fort Langley BC - Photo Taken Aug 23 2014 - Weblog Image

A roadside grave marker along 88th Avenue (Just outside of Fort Langley, BC) of a man who was killed here 5 years ago working as a flag-person. See: “British Columbia Flaggers Death Leads to Anger – Work Comp Roundup” March 29, 2011.

My secret weapon of dealing with the waiting at the bus stop is my e-reader. If you need to kill time, a good book is the answer. Time moves at a huge rate for me when reading. And, best of all, people generally leave you alone when you are nose deep reading. Rather then packing paper-back novels around, this e-reader that only cost me $20.00 does the trick. I currently have 30 novels loaded into it. Right now, I am re-reading “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (George Orwell, 1949) as I continue to re-read some of the books I read when I was younger. So I have a great reading list with me at all times on my e-reader which is perfect for waiting for a bus to come. I just have to remember to charge up battery each day, even though a charge lasts almost eight hours.

My brakes went. I was coming home from work last Thursday when I noticed the “Check Engine” and “Brake” lights blinking on and off. I stopped to have a look under the hood, but I could not see anything wrong. It was not until I walked around to the back that I noticed a trail of what seemed like water along the road-it was brake fluid. My neighbour was kind enough to tow me the rest of the way with his tractor. I have to wait until Monday to see what I can do.

My work is going terrible too. First, a four week spell of no time scheduled. Second, now loaded with work, double bookings, one day off between weeks, then last minute hours added on top of that. Lastly, the next foreseeable weeks that have been posted on my job schedule, only have 16 hours (two-days per week) for the following two weeks starting in September. This is not good if am to survive financially in the long run.

So I “bit the bullet,” and just started walking. I made it to and from work, and completed this week. I have the next three days figure out what to do with my “brakes” problem. Many do not believe me that I walked from Glen Valley to Fort Langley, and did eight hours of work, then walked back home. I can say I did it–six times in three days! Oh well–shit happens–when you’re in Hell.

I Need a Better Cooling System

I need a better cooling system, and heck, while I am at it, a better, faster machine than the one I have now. I just realized that my current PC, the one that I do most of my work on, is now reaching three years old, way past its upgrade time according to Moore’s Law. My latest creation 3D from Blender was reaching 1.3 million polygons in the scene, and  as soon as the PC would start a render, it would crash. Finally, I finished with a much lower poly count than what I wanted in my final render of the scene, a far reduced expectation of my envisioned art. It boils down to the need for a better graphics card for my PC, and a faster CPU for it, with a more efficient cooling system attached to that.

Ice Cube Blue Aug 20 2014 Weblog Image

An image I rendered with Blender 2.71: The Ice Cube, using volumetric atmosphere lighting, rendering in cycles at a very high render.

It is not surprising that I would reach my PC’s limit on nearly every 3D scene I have created in the last month or so. Achieving a super realistic look,with super fine details, would lead to the machine’s physical limitations. I have switched from the world of that cartoon look and feel, to the real world look in my 3D art. Some renders now take up to a whole day to complete, yet only a couple of hours to create.

With my PC working so hard, I have had on more than a few occasions now where the warning alarm has gone off becuase of overheating issues inside the machine. Sure, I have cleaned the dust-bunnies out from it, and added more cooling fans, but after fifteen hours of hard rendering, and the mid-day Sun, my poor machine just cannot keep up with it all. It is frustrating having to restart a render after loosing a ninety percent completed scene, only to start all over again–hoping for the best.

Low Poly - The Evil Forest - Aug 20 2014 - Weblog Image

Here is the offending scene, at 1.3 million polygons. I ended up reducing the particle system’s count on the floor-plane (the simulated grass) to less than 1000, to keep the PC from crashing while trying to render it out in Blender. There is a lot going in this scene, volumetric atmosphere, sculptured rocks using Blender’s Dynamic Topology sculpting tools, and the trees–using the sapling plugin. In order to pull off the render (as you see it now) I had to leave the scene without using any subsurface modifiers, and a reduced partial system that I was using as my scene’s grass. I never even got to adding in image textures, colours and more objects.

There Are Many Ways To Network: Cat. 5e Is One of Them.

I finally completed my latest server-slash-network job here in Fort Langley, BC. I just made it under the time I allowed myself to complete the job, two days, or sixteen hours. The server booted up perfectly, and all the network connections seem to be 100 percent. The customer is super happy, as his office staff will be returning to their posts at the end of the week–they all take the same two weeks off for their vacations, so well ahead of schedule.

The Snake of Network Cat5e Cable - Server Upgrade Aug 19 2014 Weblog Image

The photo: A shot of the network (48 channel) snake leading up from the server in the closet.

I will not be doing the software installations for this job, the customer has his own people doing that, so this actually works out well for me, as I go back to my new “night shift” job on Thursday. I will have the rest of today, and all of tomorrow off, all to myself. I may just sleep, or veg in front of the computer, I am super tired.

I am quite pleased with this job, as it went without any problems. I was almost right down to the penny, as far as my budget went, and there was no second trips to the wholesaler for added parts. I may get a second call too, as the owner is thinking of expanding some of his offices into Surrey, BC by the end of year. Wait and see.

The Mufford Overpass is Ready!

Well, it is official, the Mufford Overpass is finally ready to received traffic on it as of today. I have not yet had the pleasure of driving my chariot of metal, rust and oiled machine parts over top of the cement monument of transit bliss yet, but I will soon. I almost drove up to the elevated part of the bridge as I was following one of the trucks on 64th Avenue on Sunday (August 17) morning, but he waved me back off. He was one of the traffic security workers who was doing a drive around; I thought he was just a regular driver. All of the road-markers were moved when I was driving by, so I just assumed that it was ready.

The Mufford Overpass Aug 17 2014 Weblog Image

Driving from 208 Street, on 64th Avenue (aka Mufford Road) towards Glover Road, on August 17, 2014, Sunday Morning around 6:00am.

One less set of train tracks to drive over. Sadly on my commute I cross the same set of tracks three times, well, now only twice, but still that is a lot. Langley Township still has a lot work to do if it wants to make all of its citizens happy and train-track free–especially for those who live in Fort Langley, BC. But having one less tie-up is nice; however, there is downside to having this wonderful overpass: more street lights to deal with. Three sets of stop-lights were added as part of the changes brought on by this project. Driving down Glover Road, even with the trains crossing, was smooth and got you into town at a good pace. The new traffic lights will no doubt add to the time it takes to travel down the stretch of road, but the trade off maybe well worth it for everyone in the long run.

Langley Times News Paper: “Mufford Overpass to open on Aug. 18

The Choice of Work: Good or Bad.

Swimming in the dark green murky abyss, I awoke from a dream, then opened my eyes to see that it was 5:30pm, and I had over slept. Tonight is my last day of working the marathon night-shift of eight days. After this, everything will slow to a part-time pace at my new work, as I worked these hours only to fill the void of employees who are on their vacations. Also in the mix, I took on another temporary job for only two days, stripping a network infrastructure in an old office building, then upgrading it with a new one, plus server, WIFI and workstations–all top-of-the-line equipment. I have met so many new people in these last eight days, compared to the last year, that my brain is in overload mode with all of this new information to absorb.

Green Murky World of Cubes - Volume Metrics Aug 14 2014 Weblog Image

The cash will be nice to have, as living in this new Canadian era is proving to be a lot harsher than I originally thought it would be. Since most of the labour that I am finding that is “above table” is of poor quality, the “contract” work is proving very lucrative, and abundant. I sprang into action when the opportunity of some “side” work became available, and I was rewarded well, even landing more work from this same source. Enough said.

Meeting new people is sometimes a curse, or a great experience–I have had both types of these people encounters this week. My employer (the side job) was probably the most significant personality I have met in almost five years. From Fort Langley, BC, a business man for the last three decades, his skills, drive and vision have really impressed me when I first crossed paths with him. Right off, when I was referred to him by another business associate that I did work for, he invited me to work on his office workstation, that was in chaos from neglect, then decided if I would do a complete overhaul. I agreed, and this week I started; it went altogether without a hitch: under budget, and well within the time that I thought it would take. Since this is a family business, there is one lesson that I have learned from working with one: never get to close in a family business. Working with the “son” proved to be a bit of a nightmare, as he felt that he was prodigy child of machine language, and insisted that he join in, so that he could tinker during the configuration process. For the first time in my life I actually had to set up a faux dual-boot system so that he could work on the fake, while I completed the software installation. I then thanked him, and implied that he should consider a job at Mico$oft, as they could use someone with his talents–jokingly of course.

The other job is going good. The pace is slowing down as the hardware business ends its peak sale period, and gears up for the winter. After two weeks of intense (seven days a week) work, (as I call it, the “trial by fire”) start to my employment with them, I will quickly shift into my part-time timetable. This is what I mean by the new Canadian era, as everyone that I have met at this new job site has a story of riches to rags, careers to unskilled labour, and so much unhappiness, as all claim to have that promised job out on the horizon waiting for them. Working part-time to support a family is just nuts, in my opinion, but this seams to be the norm here. Surprisingly everyone is upbeat in general as they show up for work, get the job done, then repeat this the next day, and so on. But it is sad to see a sales accountant working as a line-picker, or a millwright as a forklift driver. So much talent wasted.

Well, I better get ready, my shift starts in a bit. One great thing about working nights is that sleeping in should never be a problem as I am up well before my start time. Staying awake, well, that is another story.

Update – Nocturnal Living

I really wanted to post this yesterday about how the job is going, but I have not been feeling that well–could be the flu, or something, so here it is now. The new job has its challenges, communication, security protocols, and not one size fits all. Other than these issues, the job is going fairly well; nothing really to complain about, other than I wish it paid more.

Communication seems to be an issue as far as dealing with the all of the sub level rules here. What I mean by this is, you have what is written, and set out in procedure, but as I found out, 90 percent of the time these policies never can be achieved during the average work-flow of a shift. During my orientation, I went through hours of web-based training, at a brake-neck pace, only to find that most of was what either redundant information, or it was poorly thought out in its teaching. For me, I just went through it so fast that I could not absorb it all in the time that they gave me and I missed what it was they were trying to convey. Add it all up, you end up learning a whole new set of requirements while on the on the job. Most of it is common sense, but the devil is in the details. For example, each job has its own learning course that you must follow, but if you want to go back and receive the course again to reacquaint yourself with its procedures, then you are out of lock–you cannot go back to it. The computer program does not allow you to come back to any lesson you have done–or at least that I could figure out. So, as I found out, to compensate, the workers have developed their own protocols that mask the company’s directive, and these skirt the rules only enough that you end up with a mishmash of procedures that bend the rules just how far these job procedures go. Some may require to label a box one way, while an others may ask you to do it another way altogether.

Security is a big deal here. You are required to leave all company items on the premises–period. You have to go through bag check when you leave. There are camera everywhere. My first day, I was not issued a locker, so I took my tools home with me. No one said anything. In fact, the next day the night-shift manager told me about it, and said that this should have been told to me during the orientation. I explain to him that the poor H.R. manager was so disorganized with my paperwork and getting me going that while she was teaching the other’s, (I was waiting in the office for my employee number to be generated) that I missed some of class. The second incident was one that was purely based on how the shift operates, and not given in the orientation classes. Bags checks must be done at the end of the shift, but you have to wait for the manager to be there when you leave. Over the last few days I have been in the office, or putting back my equipment at the end of the shift, so I have been always five minutes late getting out. I found out that the shift manager only stays at the door for about five minutes, and that when I leave, I must have a manger sign me off when I leave. I have been just leaving. I see that I must do my end-of-shift running around during work-time, to make the bag check. It is their money for my time.

Learning a position. One would think that everyone would be on the same page with what strict and rigid rules and protocols this company has, but on the work floor, not even close. It boils down to how much labour can be passed on, so the lines get blurred a lot on procedure. one example I laughed at was employees not willing to operate some types of equipment. Not being a machine operator does give you a lot of exemptions from many types of tasks that involve heavy lifting and labour. The corporate policy has created a huge loop-hole in this regard, as many seem (in my opinion) use it to their advantage. The trade off is that if you have more qualifications, then you are more valuable, and shift time will be given to you over others; this could mean the difference between part-time and full time opportunities.

So, tonight I leave, then get a one day weekend, followed with two days of work, then a five weekend after that. I am still search for my dream job. LOL

August Has Some of the Best Flowers

August has some of the best flowers around here in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. This shot I took way back in 2012 of a bunch of flowers in a planter on the side of the road in Fort Langley, has sill got a very high rating in all of the photos I have taken so far over the years. This shot is part of a series of shots I took of these yellow-orange coloured flowers that captivated me when I first got back into macro photography. In fact, this was around the time I first bought my 30mm Macro lens for my Sony A-Mount camera.

August Flowers - Aug 2012 - Weblog Image

The lessons about digital photography have been many since then. The biggest example came from when I was doing the post editing on this image (above) and discovered that the White Balance range was so limited from the Raw Files of the Sony A33 that I had to tweak it manually becuase the software that I using could not give me any pre-sets from it. The image is sharp for a digital camera and lens for under $500.00, but if you need to take the image to the next level, you are very limited–unlike with a $2000.00 camera which gives you far more data to play with in your images. But still, I made the best with what this little camera could do, and I think the result is pretty good.

Those Red Propeller Flowers

Yesterday, Aug 6th, after waking up at 3:00pm in the afternoon (becuase I now work a grave yard shift) I saw the light hitting these flowers at the end of my driveway, and need to photograph them. The flowers just started to bloom over the last couple of weeks, so I think they are hitting their prime now. What is amazing about these, and unfortunately a photograph cannot capture, is the smell they give off–very sweet and soothing.

Red Propeller Flowers - Aug 06 2014 - Weblog Image

I shot these with my Sony A77, with a Sony 16-50mm f2,8 zoom lens: ISO 100 1/250 at 50mm. I used the Sun to back lit the flowers. I used white reflector to highlight the front view, bouncing the Sun from off of it. Where I live, there is a hill to the West of me, so even those it is fairly early in the afternoon, the Sun gives me some rich tones as it shines through the trees, almost like it is shinning at the golden hour.

Graveyard Gravey

Working the graveyard shift. Not much to say about the shift itself, other than it is at night, and it is very quiet, plus no micro-management staff hovering over your every shoulder. The new employment is non-union–I say this in the sense that although I have worked in union shops, but I have also worked in shops that pretend they are a union, but they only present themselves that way as to give the impression of giving employee those rights when in fact it is the farthest thing from the truth. Perhaps the best way to sum it all up is to talk about the positives, and say that I have not found any overly outstanding negative points that raised any red flags.

The most encouraging comment that I have ever heard from any employee came from one the of lead employees who seemed to the veteran of the shift was, “there is no, or hardly any, back-stabbing, bullying, fearmongering, politics, vindictive attitudes, (and so on), in the building.” He went on to say that everyone gets along very well, this is mostly due to the fact that there is no completion between any one. A very bold statement from any employee, and especially from within a America owned corporation! But proof is in the time spent there, as I have never worked in workplace that was free of such B.S.

Unlike other places that I have worked, this company seems to have (seemly) eliminated these negative aspects of competition amongst the workers. Nepotism, I believe is the biggest one of them all, and this company has even made a policy against it, calling it a conflict of interest of the corporation. Although this employer says that they do not place advancement over seniority, then the other side of the coin would be that this is a meritocracy style of advancement–hard to say at this time. Lastly, the harassment and bullying policy. The proof is in the actions that I observe, and again that can only be judged over time as to whether this employer lives up to its words. Many employers that I have worked under in the past have failed miserably from all of these types of behaviours. If this employer has achieved what they say in writing, then I may have found something close to utopia.

Today, (or last night) was a honeymoon period of being shown the ropes, and being taught what my duties are. I mostly finished up what I could not complete during my orientation classes, so that was the first four hours of the shift, and after that I did clean up, bailing cardboard and garbage, then lots of sweeping.

I did find out why I was hired, and chosen above so many others who submitted their resumes: education, skills and scoring the highest on their aptitude test. They need thinkers, the ability to write reports, and take in huge amounts of data. The most highly coveted skills are mobile equipment operators–and they need operators desperately, but they come attached with a very leading edge inventory control system (ISC) which took me about a day to figure out. Many have walked away from these positions, not because they cannot drive, but because of operating the ISC, while driving. And of course that big one: tardiness. They have issues with tardiness, or more so with “no-shows” and “sick-time.” I think this is partly due to the nature of the business they are in, as shifts are staggered and days are inconsistent over time due to scheduling of peak customer times and volumes.

Overall, I am very excited, and very happy to be working again. More to come in later posts about this new adventure!