Archive for category life

welcome nayeli!

This summer has been the best of my life, in no small part due to the birth of my healthy and adorable daughter. Her full name is Nayeli June Martina Yvonne, and she was born on July 2nd.

My wife, who became even more my hero through the birth, is doing well and we’ve all been enjoying maternity / paternity leave together. I’ve been around for all of the firsts so far, and I feel very blessed to have been able to take the three months away from work.

Okay, enough with the personal stuff. Back to nerd stuff and programming!

quick tip #1

It’s been a while since I’ve done anything in MEL. I try to avoid MEL when I can; after two years of doing the majority of my Maya tools and scripts in Python (with the last year being pure Python), switching gears to work in MEL and losing the object-oriented nature of Python (along with its wonderful string and array manipulation tools) makes me feel like I’ve got a hand tied behind my back.

Still, MEL’s importance will continue for some time and there will be times when it’s necessary to hack out a bit MEL code. I wanted to make a quick tip note about something I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know until a few days ago that might help you with your MEL scripts.

I use the whatIs command often to track down the source of built-in scripted functionality. Calling it on a function that exists in default MEL scripts will tell you in which script that function lives and where to find it; afterwards, you can break it apart and use the pertinent parts in your own script.

However, what I did not know is that whatIs can also tell you about in-memory variables. Here’s an example:

string $value = "Bunnies";
int $intArray[] = { 1,2,3,4,5 };

whatIs "$value"; // Result: string variable //
whatIs "$intArray"; // Result: int[] variable //

If you run the code you’ll see that it returns a string with the type of the variable you checked. Quite handy, since you can use it to check types of default global variables. But even handier is what happens when you use it on a variable that has not yet been created:

whatIs "$someWonderfulVariable";

This will return the string “Unknown”. If you, not unlike my recent self, are trying to determine in your or someone else’s code whether a required variable has been created, this is the way to check.

In other news, my new job begins on Tuesday. I’m extremely excited and I’ll post more about it once I’ve gotten situated there.

Also, if you’re Canadian, elections are happening on Monday! An interesting notion is the thought of voting for a non-Reform party candidate in your riding whose projections are highest instead of voting for the party or a leader you’re usually inclined to do, with an eye towards unseating the current Reform government and getting Harper out of there. Two websites on this very thing:

Don’t worry– I won’t be mixing political messages with code tips in the future.

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spring in puerto rico

… is apparently going to be 25 degrees Celsius and none too rainy.

I’m about to take off for a few weeks to visit my mother. It’s the first time I’ve ever been to Puerto Rico when it’s not Christmas; I’ve been apprehensive about how hot it’s going to be, and about how few pairs of shorts I have in my possession.

I have a few things I wanted to mention before I leave. The first is Female Body Parts. Now, I know that sounds morbid, but it’s a photo book of close-up images of various parts of the female anatomy. There’s lots of great reference of eyes, mouths, tongues, noses, and things that are not the face. I bought it while I was in Brooklyn earlier this month visiting Luckbat. It came with a CD, which I figured would have 1K-ish resolution images on it. Imagine my surprise when I found every image on the disc to be over 4Kx3K! At the $30 price tag it currently has on Amazon, that book is a steal.

The other thing I wanted to mention is Messiah 5. If you’re like me, you weren’t able to get it loaded and running after the install. I finally figured it out today and I wanted to post about it. Here’re the steps to getting it working. Keep in mind I’d already gotten one USB stick licensed before I ran through these steps.

1) Run the remove demo script.
2) Run the uninstaller script.
3) Unplug all USB devices.
4) Re-copy Messiah from the original download.
5) Run it. Allow it to get to the licensing screen.
6) QUIT out of the licensing screen by hitting the red X on the window, and allow the program to fully exit.

Now if you plug in your USB stick and run Messiah, it loads fine.

It seems that if you’ve got a license file in there on the initial install, for some odd reason the Crossover Chromium folder doesn’t get created in your ~/Library/Application Support/ folder, which (I believe) is what’s screwing things up.

Either way, it’s loaded for me. I don’t know anything about the program yet but at least I can experiment now.

Wish me luck on the flight. And wish my mother luck!

inspiration, part two

It’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks. At work I’m back on the DVD project, working on a few of the scripting things I’ve wanted to have done since the first DVD. It feels good to be checking those things off on my list. I also ended up writing a few pipeline tools. Today is a day for bulletproofing them.

I saw both Tangled and Harry Potter 7a recently. Both were terrific. Tangled took its time getting started, but once all the players are in place it becomes a very satisfying ride through until the end. The horse, Maximus, has become my favorite animated feature character of all time. In fact, animation-wise this is the strongest film out of Disney since, perhaps, the golden 90’s. There were some sequences where I’m sure the animators were let run wild with their ideas, and the results are uproarious.

HP7’s effects were out of this world. It’s expected that each Harry Potter outdo the last in terms of visual quality, but this one outpaced all my expectations, and did so with a perfectly-paced plot that followed book seven’s first half quite closely.

Between those two, and the new Avatar Collector’s Edition (yeah, I’m a sucker who just bought the same movie again), I’m to the brim with inspiration. Tangled on the big screen reminded me what I loved about Disney films when I was little, and a bit about why I wanted to become an animator. HP7 reminded me how much fun it is to be able to lose myself in a world that doesn’t exist and, even if only for a moment, believe that somewhere, somehow, those characters and their eventual triumphs are all real.

Long story short, seeing movies like those always makes me feel energized for what I do for a living.

On the musical side, I’ve bought so many CDs recently that I’m almost at a loss for what to listen to because there are too many choices! I finally picked up a copy of 2009’s Sounds of the Universe by Depeche Mode. Not quite Destroying the Angel, but still decent. Duffy’s new disc, Endlessly, is lovely start to finish; if she’s this good now I look forward to her releases a few years down the line. Her sound has changed just enough to invite new listeners without alienating fans of the first disc. She’s also one of those rare pop artists who, in my opinion, manages to keep love songs from sounding trite or contrived.

About a week left before the break. Here’s hoping I get some sleep.

calgary ahoy

I landed just fine in Calgary last night. I think the city knew I was coming because this morning there’s a healthy dusting of snow over everything.

Each time I come back the city looks a little more different. Even the downtown skyline isn’t one I recognize any more. It’s strange, turning down familiar streets and seeing unfamiliar landmarks shoulder-to-shoulder with the old. I mean, that happens everywhere– Toronto is notorious for new shops vanishing within a handful of months of opening– but it’s different to see it happening in the place I still call home.

Differences aside, the traditional Albertan friendliness hasn’t changed, and that’s something I definitely miss, living in TO.

I’m still getting over the fact that I have a whole week off. I know Banff is on our list, and I’m actually going to visit more folks than just Trez and her kin this time around, but I’m really looking forward to taking my 7D out and seeing what I can see.   

fully functional?

Seems like everything is finally working!

The move over to Dreamhost was not without its bumps with regards to WordPress. I made the mistake of thinking that the “backup” tool was what I needed; turned out it spit out an unusable SQL database dump. Export was what I wanted but by the time I’d figured that out my site URL was already pointing at its new home. It took me a good chunk of yesterday and all morning today to find a workaround, which involved editing the old SQL database by hand, but now all my old WordPress posts have transferred and everything is working again.

My friend Mike has been a Dreamhost customer for years; possibly for as long as I’ve known him. He’s never had any complaints, and as particular as he can be about technology (not as particular as myself, mind) I thought that him being a satisfied customer was the highest compliment a company can be paid. As is always true when he gets me to try something new, either directly or indirectly, I am not disappointed. There were so many things I wanted to do with my old Yahoo hosting where I was told either it wasn’t possible or it wasn’t something they were interested in supporting; all those limitations are now gone with Dreamhost. Plus, hey, I get a shell account with Emacs again!

This site’s going to be changing. I’ve spent most of this year figuring out what I want to do and how I want to accomplish those goals; I hope that the coming months see me with more time to do just that. I’m going to start by talking more about gaming in general. In particular, I want to start writing game reviews again. I think the last time I did so was three or four blogs / hosting services back. Reviewing games is good for understanding how games work, or moreover, how and why they fail. I might start with Mirror’s Edge soon as I can find the time to finish it.

iPad madness

Well, I went and did it. Today at lunch I bought the 32GB wifi iPad.

I initially meant to ignore the iPad entirely, then only gave it passing thoughts as a possible development target for games and products. (I have a really great app idea for photography that I may still attempt seeing as nobody else on the app store has released anything in the category of note!) But I didn’t see myself using one, or even really wanting one. I already have an iPhone; why would I need a bigger one?

What changed is that one of the other gear heads at work, Jordan, not only had the audacity to go out and buy one, but also let me touch it. You hear a lot of talk about how once you’ve held the iPad things are different, but you really can’t appreciate that fact until you’ve held one for yourself. Jobs said that the development of the iPhone was just a stepping stone on the way to this, and seeing the differences between the two platforms I completely understand why this was the end game and not the phone.

For starters, even knowing the dimensions I was surprised at how small it is. I’d been expecting something much more massive; the ads on busses and billboards make it look like its the size of a fat magazine, so regardless of knowing that it has a ten inch screen I still thought it would be too large to be useful. Boy was I wrong. Maybe it’s that I have big hands, but I don’t think I’ve ever owned another device that was so comfortable. Even typing on it is great in landscape mode (this post coming to you from the WordPress iPad app). It took me a minute to find the right spot for it to sit (which seems to be balanced on my lap despite the perfectly good desk in front of me), but because the keyboard and system are just an extension of the iOS and since I’ve been an iPhone user for nearly two years, there was almost no learning curve. Although, I do like that there’s an actual undo key. I will admit I shook the pad a few times before I found it.

Right now the only thing I’m missing is WriteRoom. I hope that iPad app comes out soon. The prices on a lot of the “HD” versions of apps I use are pretty up there (Cultured Code must be insane if they think I’m giving them another $20 on top of what I’ve already paid them for Things and Things iPhone), but enough of my backup apps have become universal that I don’t think I’ll miss them all that much.

Maybe I’ll do another writeup in a month or so, but as of this minute, a few hours in, I have to say I am absolutely in love with this piece of kit. Next stop: Ableton Live + Touch OSC?



I had to make a difficult decision today: Looks like I’ll be returning my New Core i7 MacBook Pro.

I bought the in-store antiglare model because the antiglare screen was the only thing not on the standard build that I wanted, and I thought it was amazing to finally be able to pick it up in-store after the one month wait on my last laptop. But the current generation of laptops only offer the antiglare option on the higher-resolution screen.

At first I thought it wouldn’t be an issue, that I’d appreciate the extra screen real estate. But a week of using the machine has led me to the conclusion that the higher resolution screen at 15″ is too much of a strain on the eyes. At least, on my eyes.

I watched video tutorials all day today and it got to the point where I couldn’t focus on the windows on-screen. Three years on my previous laptop and I never had that problem; one week with the new one and I’m punch-drunk.

I argue all the time with people about why I get Mac laptops. I honestly do believe they’re of a higher calibre than their equivalently-priced PC counterparts, but between this issue, a bevy of issues I’ve had since iPhone OS update 3.1, and the fact that Apple still hasn’t gotten their shit together with regards to OpenGL standards on the Mac and I’m seriously considering a Windows laptop for my next work machine.

I wiped this one and I’m taking it back. I’ll replace it with a glossy-screen copy, and hopefully that helps my headaches. But I can’t help thinking that this could have been avoided had Apple offerred the antiglare option on the regular resolution screens, an option I’d have gotten had I bought a Dell.

Funnily enough I have a copy of Windows 7 Professional arriving in the mail in a week or two, so I’ll have plenty of time to get re-acclimated with that side of things if I do decide to make the switch back (after my 2001 switch to Mac). Really going to miss Quicksilver, though.


I’ve been out of sorts for the past month and a bit with a number of health issues. I saw a doctor about a week ago and, on top of being put on some headache meds that completely cut drinking out (and have caused some stupendously insane dreams), I was also instructed to cut coffee out of my diet.

I haven’t not had coffee on a morning since Tiny Toons was still airing. I started with a cup here and there to stay awake for late evening violin performances when I was eight, but I’ve been having proper cups on my own since I was twelve. As you can imagine, this has been a difficult transition for me.

Coffee has been my one last vice. When I turned 25, I made a conscious decision to cut out of my life as many things that are bad for me as possible. I went from two pots of coffee a day to one, to a pot of half-caf, to my would-be current: a large cup of half-caf followed by a large tea at work. I cut my sugar intake significantly; nowadays, if I put something sweet in it’s less than a teaspoon of honey. And as far as drinking goes, I’m very moderate now. There are whole months I take off.

But coffee… I feel how Jack felt before he met Tyler, now. And while I’m still getting my caffeine fix from tea (lucky that I cut back on caffeine, or that would be more difficult), I nearly ninja every cup of coffee my coworkers enjoy when I smell them passing by, all warm and alluring.

Pics of San Francisco are still coming. It’s been a busy few weeks on the TV show. That said, I had a look through the assets Friday night and man! This show is going to be made of awesome. Right now, I’m on my way to see Labyrinth on the big screen. Yes, the David Bowie + Henson + Jennifer Connoly film! February 2010 is being good to me.