Dec 31, 2008

Good Riddance 2008!

Well it's finally over. The year of constant irritation.
Gone (hopefully) is the year where every small that could go wrong went wrong.

Don't mistaken me, some stuff has gone right in 2008. I did manage to graduate with my education degree. I did make it back to Canada twice to catch up with peoples long left behind.

Yet this was also the year that saw me have immigration problems of the dumbest sort, develop a cholesterol problem, not get paid for months and months in a row, and failing to get jobs that were easily in my capabilities and experience (namely Dinosaur Park and 4 at the Otago Museum!)

Finally as though a conclusion to this year today my labtop tried to commit suicide! I was able to save the puter part and all my (mostly unbacked up!) photos, 3D files, and Traumador content. That having been said I did have to buy a $350 monitor to sub in for it now completely dead LCD screen! Meaning it is not so much a labtop as so much as a top... or is that a lab?
No worries as these pictures will attest. It is over. In with 2009 I say, and hope that it is a year of a different sort!

Being in one of the first countries in the world to experience the new year is kinda neat. I write this from 2009 while most of you are still asleep in the early morning of new year's eve.

Rhonwyn and I had a fairly mellow New Year's evening other than heading out to watch the fireworks at midnight (I write this literally seconds after getting home).This was on account of none of our friends having very concrete plans (or being out of town) which suited me and and my rather diminished mood just fine. I was in a grumpy state due to my puter's near death experience this morning (which for the record tends to sour one's mood I've discovered).

As you catch up to me in the "wonderful" world of the future I hope you all have Happy New Years, and I'll catch you on the flip side. Yo.

Hopefully this year is a lot better than the one just leaving!

Dec 28, 2008

One Tough Dino

This post's title is a deliberate pun. Not only were the Ankylosaurs tough due to their armoured hides, but that also makes them tough as to make in 3D!!!

After 5 times the effort of a regular Dinosaur I present the complete Euoplocephalus...

Man I'm not looking forward to posing anything to do with the neck or tail! So it probably won't make too many appearances on Traumador.

Dec 25, 2008

X-mas Panorama Style!

Merry X Mas!!! Which I've already had, on account of New Zealand being in the future compared to most people.

What a crazy and hectic couple weeks its been... It took the shut down of all things civilized, due to the holiday day, for things to calm down!

For starters I made it back safe(ish) and sound from my hike along the Kepler Track. Not that is wasn't without incident, but I'll be posting on the whole trek in more detail soon (probably tomorrow). Enjoy this sample pic of the hike for now.

You'll note the professional quality style panorama nature of the shot. This is the result of today's funny X-Mas story.
Rhonwyn and myself spent X-Mas day with our friends Paul and Laura. Somehow Paul got to showing me his really amazing panorama software which blew me away. When he saw how psyched I was about it, he whipped out its DVD and installed it on mine and Rhonwyn's machines. Next thing you know EVERYONE was at their respective computers for an hour making panorama shots! Not the typical X-Mas activity I know, but we all had fun and now have amazing products to show for it!

To give you an idea, here is one of my own hand made panoramas (you may recall from 2007) in which you can see the lines and lighting differences of the various photos I stuck together in photoshop.

This is the result of the new and improved program. What blows me away is the program stretches and colour balances it all perfectly, and it only takes literally 1 min per panorama! My photoshopping efforts could take up to 45 min (more due to the size of the photos I was cutting and pasting).
Anyways hope you and yours have a happy holiday, and find something equally fun to do (whether it be conventional or non-conventional)

Dec 20, 2008

Busy Week with... Fossils!

Well tons has been happening lately. It really deserves several posts.

The skool year just ended down here, and as a result so has work for a little while. There was a degree of poetic justice to my last teaching gig of the year. It was at the skool I started off in at the beginning of the year. So that was nice seeing all those kids again (and getting paid for it... I had planned to pop in on their last day, but this way I didn't have to). As I wasn't in their room it lead to the funniest skool yard duty I've ever had with that whole room worth of kids following and swarming around me during my rounds.

I'm leaving Salmond after two years. So packing has had to occur in the bits and pieces of time I've had throughout the week. I hate packing, but it'll be nice to be in a real place again. Hopefully I never have to live with any first year uni students again (that alone over a hundred of them).

I write this on the cusp of departing for a big hiking trip that will see me gone until X-Mas eve. Update you on that when I get back.

This week's big news has been what kept me out of the house...
I finally have gotten to head out and do some palaeo field work here in New Zealand! This was a big week for it too.

Last weekend I took one of the vice principals in town and his kids out fossil hunting, and found my first bone in New Zealand. Turns out it was from a Moa, which was cool.

This was quickly followed by correspondence from Dr. Ewan Fordyce of the Otago Museum inviting me to join him on a field excursion. It was really productive, and I learned a brand new excavation technique that I've been told by my Canadian contacts should get written up. So I might look into that, with permission from the inventor of the technique Dr. Fordyce of course.

Anyways Traumador will probably have a TON to say about the outing once we get his Drumheller exploits over and done with (which have barely begun... I need to get the whip cracking over there).

Funny story related to all this, that I have been meaning to post, but haven't managed too till now.

Like my shirt?

Well about a month ago I discovered many other people did. While out shopping for groceries at the local farmers market I was suddenly stopped at one point by a gentleman who spotted my shirt. His immediate question upon stopping me, I assumed I'd dropped something, was to ask if I'd been there in regards to my shirt. Alerting to not only that I had, but that I'd helped in field work up there we had a nice 15 minute chat about all things Burgress Shale and Cambrian.

Than about 5 minutes later I ran in Dr. Fordyce who also noted the shirt, and this conversation (as an extension of an ongoing internet exchange we'd been having for about a week previous) triggered this week's field outing.

So the lesson dress for success, I guess. Geeky success anyways!

Last thing is an update on the Ankylosaur model. Okay, to answer Peter, technically a Euoplocephalus model.

With everything going on this week I only really managed a day after my last post to work on him. This is by FAR the hardest Dinosaur model I've worked on. I've had to rework the body armour 5 times, and I'm not totally happy with this version. It is a compromise that allows me to pose him when I'm finished. I had one variant that probably would have been amazing, but unposable. Thus requiring me to remodel the whole thing if I wanted a different position.

Anyways I'd love to sit here and update you some more, but I just halfway through that last paragraph have been informed we're leaving. So catch on my return, and merry X-Mas!

Dec 15, 2008

The Toughest of Dinosaurs

The list of general Dinosaur types I haven't built a 3D model for is shrinking by the day.

Two particular families of plant eater have intimidated me for a long while, but I finally bite the bullet today (my first day of work less holidays). I present one completed armoured Dinosaur, and one in progress.

First off the completed Stegosaur. I had planned on an elaborate solution to the plates, but I just ended up modelling them standard and manually placing them. So I got the model done quick(er), but posing it might prove slightly annoying. Fortunately it's only half of the plates that are in moving parts.
Here it is properly lite (not posed mind you).

Here is the start of my next, and probably hardest Dinosaur type. The armoured Ankylosaurs.
I'm happy with the top dome armour, but not sure about the bottom. I may rework some BIGGER armour for the top and swap the current dome stuff to take the place of the bottom "bubbles". Let me know what you think.

Dec 10, 2008

A New Record

With the winding down of the skool year down here (the last day for primary kids is next Tuesday) I'm finding I have a lot more time. Awesome.

So one of my big projects as of late is building up a much larger army/stockpile of CG Dinosaurs for use in my various projects (mostly Traumador).

One of the problems with Dinosaurs is they take a lot of time to build. Even now with a nice inventory of them to modify into missing type it takes me typically 4-6 hours just to make new textures for them.

Today I pulled off a record though. Not only did I do 2 new textures in a day (I have done this once before), but I remodelled two of my existing Dinos into two totally brand new families!

Would you believe this Ostrich mimic used to be a Velociraptor (whose shader I completed, and than I started tinkering with the model and eventually made this!)? He still needs some work, but considering how MUCH different the two are, I'm claiming a achievement for one day.
This Stegoceras (aka bonehead dino) was a big huge MEGA breakthrough. I'd been thinking how I might tackle the difficult dome on these guys. Due to all my 3Ding as of late this sort of challenge, even though doing my head in for about 30 minutes, are becoming easier and easier to solve. I'm getting intuitive with how my modelling window works, and even though it doesn't respond logically often I'm starting to instinctively know how to coax into doing what I want.
So now the only really big Dino families I'm in need of are the, very frightening, Ankylosaurs and Stegosaurs. Keep you posted (and they are coming!)

An actual interview!

Well this is the 4th or 5th time I've applied for a position at the local Otago Museum. Unlike all my other attempts I actually got an interview this time!

The position is basically just one small step up the totem pole from what I was doing at the Tyrrell, but it is exactly the sort of job I was aiming to get with my education degree.

The interview was today around lunchtime. However ever since the absolute joke that was my DPP interview results (again I quote "need more experience working with children") my confidence on these sorts of things is completely shot. I can't say how it went. Probably not as bad as I'm feeling at moment. The DPP thing has felt like an Albatross around my neck all year, and thus made me weary about this sort of stuff.

If I don't get the position it'll suck, but at least I do have a job next year to fall back on. So it won't disrupt life if they pass up on me.

In trying to keep up a positive face, how could they resist a museum veteran like me though? ;p

Dec 6, 2008

Man Wikipedia Needs Improving

Who knew Wikipedia could be so frustrating. All it took was one line and now my whole Saturday has become a giant side project. Granted on with very cool results, but still.

The announcement of a Palaeo Art competition in Europe with some pretty hefty prizes had me thinking of submitting a 3D piece or two into it. As one of the criteria the judges would smile on favourable are illustrations of Portuguese species I decided to apply try and use my kung fu Mosasaurs.

Which is where Wikipedia came in. In my efforts to find out if there were any Portuguese Mosasaurs (which I couldn't confirm or deny... I'm suspecting not, but does anyone know for sure?) I hit a sentence that really pissed me off.

Many of the 'dinosaur' remains found on New Zealand, a volcanic island chain that was never connected to any of the continents, are actually mosasaurs and plesiosaurs, another group of Mesozoic predatory marine reptiles.

You'll note the highlighted and italicized section. What they were saying about most Kiwi Mezesoic fossils being marine reptiles is completely true. However the author thought they were being clever by hypothesising why. They'd heard New Zealand was volcanic, and as it was an island it must be like say Hawaii. Makes sense right? Sure, except they're completely WRONG!

Now I'll admit I on occasion try to connect dots like this myself, but typically I'll have tried to find the answer first if I'm putting it up on the web. This person clearly didn't bother to look it up at all!

If they had they'd have found out about this...

The thing is New Zealand was very MUCH attached to the other continents before it became a separate island "chain". In fact it was connected to two of them! Australia and Antarctica. When it originally separated from them it was a continent itself, Zealandia as geologists call it, which was half the size of Australia!

However due to Zealandia's relative thin continental crust it sank shortly after separation, and most of it sank with the exception of what would become modern New Zealand and the few other surrounding islands.

Now I was so infuriated by the Mosasaur sentence I actually went into Wikipedia and edited it. So you won't find that version. I was gracious enough to leave the original sentence minus the offending aside (which wasn't needed anyway). Now that I've seen how easy it is to change things on Wiki I'm going to be a lot more doubtful about stuff I read on there!

However I was left with both a residual sting of annoyance, and a need to show off my knowledge of this apparently specialized geologic history. Especially given no one had ever illustrated it before!

I'd been wanting to learn how to do this anyway.

I was going to create a realistic continent!

The only reference I had of Zealandia was this topographic map.

If you weren't able to make out which parts were Zealandia here it is outlined.

Through some photoshopping of a high resolution globe of the modern Earth I was able to steal bits and pieces of various modern continents to make a pretty convincing ancient Zealandia. The great thing is though we know roughly what its outline was, no one can tell me I got the details wrong. The only thing we know is that it was a very flat place, and that modern New Zealand's mountains are a pretty recent geologic event.

As this creating land from "nothing" technique I'd thought of a few months ago (but never tried) worked in the first go I decided to take some more time to throw a few comparative pics together.

I was going to get around to trying this anyway, just hadn't planned on today, as Traumador will soon be going into more New Zealand palaeo stuff. With a possible "trip" of sorts where he might explore it closer...

Let me know what you think.

Dec 3, 2008

We go way back...

So long before I worked at the Tyrrell Museum (though I'd always dreamed I would... just not the way it happened), I'd been visiting it nearly every year.
Here is the ONLY photo of me at the museum pre-2003. Despite this lack of photographic evidence I had been there throughout the years (it helps that its only a 1.5 hour drive from cowtown).

Though there are few photos of me there, I still accumulated evidence I'd been there. Trace fossils as it were. These are two pins still in my pin collection.

There are of course many stories and memories I could relay. Frankly I'm a little out of steam today (I actually had marking to do... remember I'm a freaking sub! Since when am I supposed to do marking?!?).