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Humble fragments

Just checking in. I’m still alive, and fully vaccinated to boot.

Creativity-wise, I’m making little things here and there. It’s in unpredictable and short-lived bursts, but that’s fine. It’s good to be doing very humble and fragmentary work at a very humble and fragmentary scale.

It’s good because while I’ve got creative outlets and I’m still thinking about the character of my creative output, there’s no danger I’ll get any big ideas. While I’m still getting my head straight, that’s all I need (and all I can probably handle).

And I hope you’re having as good a time of things as you can, yourself.

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Journals

A letter to no-one in particular

(Not to say if you’re reading this that you, kind reader, are “no-one in particular” in all contexts. You’re definitely someone. Language is a blunt instrument that way.)

I have a draft journal entry which spans all of 2019. It was all about getting my diagnosis, the various trials and tribulations of that year, everything else. It was a hard year, 2019.

The last line of the 2019 journal was “2020, please be good to us”.

2020 was a seemingly infinite landscape of shittiness, with the odd gold nugget poking out. Some good and useful things came out of 2020, but mostly it was just shit. And more shit. Shit with the thickened consistency of suffocating, pitiless mud.

Many of us found ourselves in front of a proverbial Mirror of Truth, caked in all of this woe and desperation and exhaustion. We didn’t recognise ourselves anymore. We’d let other people down. Other people had let us down. Never mind that we were flat out keeping ourselves going in deeply unfamiliar territory, taxed and challenged in ways we could scarcely fathom, as the old ways of living became more and more like a strange dream – as though we’d come back from a holiday which all felt unreal and impossible and even a little frightening from our present moment.

I was worried for 2021 – not relieved, if I’m honest. There would be a lot of clean-up and mending and fixing. Further disintegration seemed inevitable. The work to rebuild the mess into something better was overwhelming to even think about, running on fumes as we are.

Still, running on fumes is marginally better than permanently conked out.

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Journals

Sit rep

It’s near the end of October.

Here in Western Australia, we’re still conducting testing for COVID 19, but despite that there’s no official evidence of community transmission at all. Current COVID cases in WA are either travellers returning from overseas or the crew members of seafaring vessels.

Our state border is still closed and there are minimum-area-per-customer limits. But that’s about it.

We’re a long way from anywhere, so we’re doing relatively OK here.

But even without COVID to worry about, I’ve had a bit of a crappy run. Mostly related to job stress and knock-on effects, being too tired and anxious to make things out of hours, etc.

After a month-long break, I’ve remembered the day job is food on the table and a roof over my head and the resources to bring my own ideas and passions to fruition.

But there’s a bunch of resentment and paranoia and negativity and disengagement and weltschmerz fogging my brain, which has been getting worse over time. 2020 added to it, but it’s been simmering since I shelved AMITS in 2017.

How dare they make me so busy and stressed out that I put three years of effort on the back burner and look like a complete waster after what I said on that stage at Blender Conference oh god i am such a bloody embarrassment i wasted the time and kindness of so many amazing people who the hell did i think i was fooling (etc)

Understanding that connection between stress and anxiety and creative drop-off hasn’t helped deal with that feeling of indignation at all.

Indignation is a hell of a drug to kick, truly.

But this indignation gets me nowhere. And with enough time, nowhere is death.

And I want to be somewhere again.

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Journals

So that was 2018…

It’s 1 January 2019 as I write this, so Happy New Year!

At the changing of the years, I like to go back over the previous twelve months, and think about what I want do over the next year. I did a similar thing in 2017, and looking over it this sentence in particular struck me:

The day job may have other things to say about all of this, especially if I score the promotion I’ve been working towards and people keep departing, but we’ll see.


– me, 12 months ago

The day (and often late night) job

I got the promotion. Yay! But the other thing happened too. Boy did it ever.

Before the year’s end, all but one other person in my team of six (not counting the new hire) had been poached by another (much better paying) company across town. Two levels of management above my team had already gone the same way, and one of those managers had taken over from another poached manager. My team in particular has domain knowledge the poachy company wants and so every single one of us was approached, me included. Only one of us flat turned them down.

When they approached me, I said “not yet”. At the time I didn’t want that kind of distraction hanging over a big unfinished project when it was so very close to done.

The project’s done now. It’s a REDACTED. People tell me it works better than Google’s did.

This year’s big project

REDACTED

Meanwhile, in Blender…

If there’s been an overarching theme to this year creatively, it’s been stepping back from big complicated things and working simpler and smaller.

…the Sun shines brightly!

This year AMITS stopped being the focal point for my creativity. I’m no longer under any illusion that it’s possible to learn animation from the context of making an animated movie. Animation is way too complicated to figure out as I go along, and I haven’t got enough practical experience to build on. Fair enough, though: I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

As a result, “A moment in the sun” was mostly back-burnered, although it continued to simmer. Then suddenly in October, there came a burst of inspiration: a story rewrite, a scratch audio track, thumbnail sketches and a story reel! Gosh! It’s now in its best ever state story-wise – short (90 seconds), dense, unambitious, silly and fun. All I had to do was stop working on it entirely for a few months and it came good. Yay.

I’m not holding myself to a deadline or a schedule on AMITS anymore. I want to work on it as time and energy allow – a proper crafty hobby project.

Little things (for the fun of it)

I wanted to become more confident and competent with animating anyway, so back in February, I started some self-paced courses in animation over at CG Cookie. I’m a long way from where I was a year ago, although I still have a long way to go again before I’m where I want to be. I know much more of what I don’t know.

My main blocker has been learning to use reference effectively. Stepping back from animation and understanding how I use reference in general has helped there too. In short, I let the reference dictate its own ideas instead of using it to inform my own ideas. It’s something I want to work on.

Beyond finally knocking half a dozen animation exercises over, I want to do more “little things for the fun of it” in 2019. I want to do more work on visible things which I can share instead of being stuck doing invisible things for months on end.

Keyframe Tools

Friendly animator Looch badgered me into porting a couple of tools from his favourite Maya plugin animBot into Blender 2.79. This became the Keyframe Tools add-on. The tools are functional right now but neither numerous nor super-polished. It’s still in a state of “feel free to use it but don’t expect much” (pre-alpha).

I want to get it working in 2.80 but beyond that, I have no big plans. I have more than enough software to support at my day job to want to support software outside of my day job, and Blender’s API for F-Curves is still too messy to want to deal with in my spare time.

Other things

Whatever happened to the synthesiser… ?

The interest in Eurorack petered out in 2018. The last thing I bought was the mighty Intellijel Metropolis stage sequencer – a reward after completing a release milestone for the search service.

I’m happy to report I haven’t spent a cent on any new music gear since August. (Yay. I’m cured.)

I recorded some nice whooshing noises from the modular all the same and put them up on Bandcamp. I also re-released an old album of loud ambient music called Music for Open Plan Offices. I haven’t had much use for it at the day job since everyone quit.

Writing novels

I don’t really talk about my writing much either, except in the context of “I’m writing to procrastinate animation”. But since this is a recap of the year, this is what I wrote.

I got through writing most of a first draft of a novel in February. It was about a cut-throat society of vermin living in a sort of midway universe between Mundane Reality and Deep Magic, and the chaos that ensues when someone indefatigably pleasant finds their way into a scheming nest of bastards who all want him for themselves. I put it down because it was too complicated to work out the middle and I didn’t like it enough to go to the effort of finishing it.

Before the cholecystectomy in late October, I decided to bust out a novel NaNoWriMo-style for the hell of it. Two weeks and 63,000 odd words later, I’d drafted a story about a gifted magical being more concerned with lording his talents over the easily impressed than doing anything useful. This arrogance winds up getting him exiled into the human world where he has to fit in for a whole month or face a terrifying forfeit. It’s a sweet little story with some fun characters.

I mention these only to see if anyone will ask about reading them.

Japanese

I started learning Chinese in November 2017 when Duolingo released their Chinese course, but this year Japanese was coming up a lot more in my day-to-day life (following sumo, mainly). I don’t have much use for Chinese other than saying dissidenty-type things at my Chinese-made mobile phone.

Recently I’ve kicked it up a notch and got into spaced repetition systems to boost my vocab and grammar. It’s intense but it’s definitely delivering results. I feel it turning into one of those things where the challenge, frustration and reward make it fantastically addictive – except instead of having spent loads of cash and time with electronics, I spend less cash overall and understand a whole other language. Bonus!

The future of the blog

I started keeping this journal back in 2012 on Tumblr. Back when AMITS was really roaring along, I posted something every weekend as a show and tell. The idea was to represent the passing of time as the project got made so that when someone goes back and reads it, they get a sense for the tempo of the project.

AMITS’s tempo subsequently dropped and the weekly updates became monthly. I got interested in other things again and the monthly recaps got much less focussed on animation.

My engagement levels from here are pretty close to zero as well. I would love to say that I’m not fussed about engagement but even I’m at the point now where I want to re-think what purpose this blog even serves. Regular posts feel more out of habit than for having something interesting to say.

I’m going to just get on with my 2019 and if Something Happens, I’ll make a concerted effort to be interesting about it. Very possibly I’ll blog about Japanese.

For now, that’s it. Have a great 2019!

Categories
A moment in the sun Blender Japanese Journals Languages and linguistics Stuff I made

December 2018 retro

December 2018! Western quolls at the Arid Recovery desert site appear to be doing well, and (as feared) all but one of the team-mates at work has resigned. Also I have a new-fangled block-based editor to play with for this blog. Gosh.

The sun and moments therein

I finished a cut of the AMITS: Hello! story reel at the beginning of the month. It’s just shy of 90 seconds which is a nice compact running time. And here it is! (Spoiler warning, obviously.)

After literally years of struggling to write a story with these two characters, this story reel is a quietly magnificent relief.

I modelled and rigged the Hellobot in the Blender 2.80 beta. It’s a simple rounded cylinder, with the eyes rigged to change colour and shape. It should be more than enough to get me through layout. Here is a short demo. (Very slight spoiler warning.)

There are now eight assets left to build, including scenery, a few props and two characters. Producing AMITS to any kind of deadline or schedule is completely unthinkable at the moment, unfortunately.

Blender 2.80 beta is coming along nicely but I haven’t made any updates to Keyframe Tools just yet. Hopefully the API to access keyframe data is not as convoluted as it is in the 2.7x series.

今日は、日本語!

This month mainly I’ve mainly been studying Japanese. Or should I say Kongetsu ni watashi wa omoni nihongo wo benkyou shite-ita. Or should I say 今月に私は主に日本語を勉強しいた。I can do that now. 今は出来るよ。OK, I’ll stop.

I’ve shifted gear from five minutes a day farting around on Duolingo to at least an hour a day learning Japanese characters, vocabulary and grammar. It’s really worth a blog post of its own. IOU!

That’s about it for December. I’ve got a yearly recap blog pencilled in for New Year’s Day or thereabouts, so expect that soon!