Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Because the First Life Wasn't Enough

A few hours from now, I'm going to join Second Life. I'm intrigued, I'm fascinated, and I might even get official sanction/support/lindens from work. That's right. My beloved employer is making a tentative foray into the universe of Second Life, and the small development team involved is looking for some additional players....preferrably ones who have some sort of experience, an excited attitude, and a different way of thinking. Me, in other words. :)

Very soon, probably within a matter of hours, Second Life is going to pass a new milestone as the 2 millionth resident signs up. I wish I could time my joining to land the magical number. Doubt I could make it happen, but I'm going to be really close on one end or another.

Because I'm fascinated by the macrocosm/microcosm that is Second Life, I'm thinking about blogging my adventures there. Don't know if that's going to happen or not, but I'm thinking.....

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Siggraph 2006: Wednesday August 2

Siggraph Day Four, Part One...Lucas, FedEx, and the Electronic Theater.

Once again, I left J.D. behind and hit the convention center alone. Alone, but carrying almost 20 pounds of books, manuals, leaflets, pamphlets, and give-aways that I had to FedEx home so as not to send my luggage over the weight restrictions. I crammed it all in a couple of snot-slippery Siggraph plastic bags, and, well, the experience was like wrestling a gigantic slug.

Me and the 20 pounds of ephemera made it to the convention center in just enough time to attend a 30-minute session on hiring practices at the LucasArts booth (props to them for using Nelson benches in the booth). I didn't want to sit with the bags on my lap, but I didn't have enough time before the session to mail them, so I decided to stand in the back. The decision definitely worked in my favor. I noticed the guy next to me was crowd-watching (a favorite pasttime of mine) and was highly entertained by it, so I used that to open the networking door. Turned out he's Lucas employee (!), albeit a programmer, who came to work the booth, and he got curious about what the company is telling potential hires. We talked for 10 minutes or so, and I got to find out what it's like to work for the Big L. (Sort of like working for any other corporation, only cooler).

The session was oh-so-informative, although, once again, there was a lot of microphone gargling going on. Five different people spoke, but only two were fearless enough to speak clearly. Yes, dear LucasPeople, and everyone else for that matter, a microphone makes your voice loud. That's the f-ing point! Anyway, Lucas is looking for people doing photo-realistic work for a gaming division they are starting in Singapore. Verrrry interesting. I watched that comment spread disappointment across a lot of faces, though; not many people in the gaming and film industry have the right training and skills to do photo-real. Don't get me wrong. These people turn out a lot of great work, and there's some realism in the work that they do. But few do genuine photo-realistic work. Heck, a lot of them would consider that boring. After all, that's what those of us who work in marketing and advertising do. Needless to say, I was intrigued. :)

The LucasFolk also said they are looking for generalists, a most happy surprise. Totally not expecting to hear that. I mean, I went to the session because I was curious, not because I was thinking of applying. I didn't even bring a demo reel to Siggraph. Heck, I don't even have a demo reel. I'm too busy making animations to, uh, make an animation. But after hearing that, I couldn't help but wonder......maybe one day. Once again, that comment had a physical effect on the crowd. About 2/3 were visibly disappointed, but the other 1/3 were obviously generalists who seemed to be experiencing a larger version of the little giddiness that hit me. Just by watching expressions, I could have told you the background of everyone in the audience.

Still, the LucasUniverse can afford to be picky, very, very picky. The hiring rep said they will occasionally hire someone who just lives in the basement and is a self-taught CG genius, but for the most part, they are looking for degrees, and advanced degrees at that. She said you don't necessarily need a Ph.D. in physics, but if you do, she'd like to talk to you right after the session. Still, it all comes down to demo reels. The degree is just a good deciding factor. So, if you have a killer demo reel, you're in. If you have a killer demo reel and an advanced degree, you're totally in. But if it comes down to someone with a killer demo reel versus someone with a killer demo reel plus a degree, the degree is in. And they prefer demo reels on the web! You don't even need a web site, per se, just a server where you can dump your goods for them to see. Apparently all of the Lucas divisions share applications, and it's easier to share a web link than a single demo reel that has to get inter-officed around. Once again, good to know.

After the session, I took the bag-o'plenty to the FedEx inside the convention center. Oy. First of all, it was like being home. The furniture inside was Bretford with Caper chairs. Apparently we won that contract. There were only two people working behind the desk and about 10 people in line, all of whom had COMPLICATED requests. People printing business cards, a lady from Pixar trying to get 300 copies of a flyer, and general chaos. Considering there were 25, 000 people there for Siggraph, I can't fathom the stupidity behind FedEx's decision NOT to add extra staffing. Still, I'm glad they had one there. I was able to send everything home in two overstuffed boxes for a grand total of $14. Nice.

After that, I met up with J.D. for the Electronic Theater. To her, the Electronic Theater is THE reason to go to Siggraph. It's the best of the best in animation, 2 hours of animation shorts by everyone under the sun. As I've mentioned, J.D. doesn't see a lot of television or movies, so there's a gee-whiz factor in it for her that isn't there for me. It was nice, although I would have been just as happy to watch it all on a DVD at home.

In fact, I would have been much happier watching it at home. The room was absolutely freezing, the coldest one I found at Siggraph. It couldn't have been warmer than 60 degrees in there. Then, the control people had the volume up WAY TOO LOUD. As I told J.D., if I was in a real movie theater, I would have complained to the manager and demanded a refund if the sound wasn't turned down. I don't need to FEEL the audio; what I need to do is hear again tomorrow. I have enough hearing damage as is. And I wasn't the only one with a problem. I saw several other people trying to subtly cover their ears. And, even though all the shorts were cool, and the volume was deafening, I couldn't stay awake and eventually had to walk out. The room was super-dark, waaaay darker than a real movie theater, and I simply can't sit in a dark room for any length of time and stay awake. I do okay in movie theaters because there's a lot of ambient light, and even those usually leave me feeling a little sleepy afterwards. But the Electronic Theater was perfect for overwhelming sleepiness. Oh well. Hopefully some of the shorts that I missed will be on the Siggraph DVD that is coming.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Siggraph 2006: Tuesday August 1 Again

Siggraph Day Three, Part Two....Master this!

J.D. and I went to a special Mental Ray MasterClass at the Westin for 3D Studio MAX subscription members. The class itself was kind of okay, but the reception afterwards was a bit of a dud. The guy leading the class had an adorable accent and was funny as heck. I reached a point where I was taking as many notes on his funny sayings as I was on the actual Mental Ray tricks! I'm looking forward to getting MAX 9 because it looks like using Mental Ray has been simplified. Or, if not simplified, at least it now has some presets to get me going in the right direction. Intuitive renderer, it is not.

After the class was a wine and cheese reception. I think it was meant as a networking get-together, and I was really hoping that it would be, but alas, NOT. A lot of people either wandered off immediately, or grabbed a glass and then wandered off. Few people actually hung around, and they weren't mingling. It was almost like being a high-school lunch room; everyone seemed to cluster up with friends and stay that way. J.D. and I stayed and talked with the one other guy at our table, and while he was a nice guy, it just wasn't the exciting, happening time I wished it was. Oh well. Maybe next year it will suck less.

In fact, the only interesting thing to happen that night was back at the hotel. J.D. and I hadn't heard of any parties, so we wound up back at the Colonnade talking to the nighttime business concierge. After 10 or so minutes of chatter, he suddenly apologized for staring at me, and asked if I had any family here in the east. Apparently I look exactly like the love of his life, the girlfriend that he let get away 20 years ago. Interesting, but I would have much rather been partying with some Siggraph folk. 25, 000 people, supposed 95% men, and us two women can't find a party. Oh well. It was nice to have a good nights sleep.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Siggraph 2006: Tuesday August 1

Siggraph Day Three, Part One.....Try some branding, people!

I didn't even bother waiting for J.D. and went to Siggraph without her. She had a great time, not to mention a few vodka and tonics, at the Roxy Monday night, but I didn't want to miss out on the free t-shirts. I did miss the panel "Is a Career in Computer Graphics Possible?", though. I'm kinda bummed, because the topic is uber-fascinating, but hopefully the notes/video/whatever-the-heck-info-capture will be made available on the net/DVD/whatever, etc.

I wandered through the job fair/trade show first thing. I gotta tell you, though....I didn't realize there was a separate job fair section curtained off from the actual booth area, and neither did a lot of people. Not that I came looking for a job this year, mind you. But if I was on the prowl, I would have been ticked about the confusing info. See, when you first walk into the expo-or whatever you want to call this part of Siggraph-you see the various corporate booths. All these booths were covered in information on how to get jobs with them, and I watched as thousands of demo reels changed hands with a shake and a smile right at these booths. Therefore, this must be the job fair, too, right? Wrong. Next year, when I might be looking, I'll know better. :)

The trade show part was fairly cool, although I didn't pick up as much swag as I would have liked. I'm not the type to just randomly grab whatever is lying around a booth--with that method, before you know it, you've walked off with someone lunch or the spare shirt that someone meant to change into that afternoon. I want to be offered stuff, and even if the booth personnel are too busy to personally say, "Here's a free whatsit," then I'd at least like a sign that says "Free" or "Take one, please." Yes, in case you haven't guessed, I don't like ambiguity, and well, a lot of the booths were rather ambiguous in what was available. Still, I landed one t-shirt, a couple of keychains (Pixologic's being the most substantial), some heavy-duty pens, a superball, a flashlight, a sketchpad, and a gazillion DVDs. (Not to mention all the paper info!)

Since I do animations for the marketing deparment of an office furniture manufacturer, I couldn't help but look at the trade show with a marketing eye. Some booths I definitely liked more than others. Anyone who used one of our products (Nelson platform bench, Marshmellow sofa, etc.) got a thumbs up just for that. :) ATI and NVIDIA got points simply because they stuck to ATI red and NVIDIA green. I was utterly baffled by, and had a hard time finding, Autodesk's booth because they inexplicably used red instead of their traditional blues. Branding counts, people, whether you like it or not. Pepsi's logo might have changed over the years, but it's still red, white and blue. That's how you know they are Pepsi. Autodesk would have been better off making their booth white, or neutral, or even all black, instead of choosing a really strong color that has no brand association with the company. (And don't talk to me about red as part of the Maya brand. Autodesk bought Maya, not the other way around, so there's no sense in fracturing the Autodesk brand identity).

IDT's Everyone's Hero and Savannah College of Art and Design booths got points for doing a lot in a little space. They put effort into their booths, had a sense of whimsy, and still kept brand. Everyone's Hero was brand consistent down to the baseball jerseys the staffers wore and the baseball fans painted on the walls of the booth. Savannah CofAandD did a faux college mock-up down to the fake grass. Now that's branding. It's not that I even like fake grass, it's that the use of fake grass told you a lot about the college....risk-taking, fun, design-oriented, and, above all, located somewhere warm. Northern Michigan School of Snow and Sleet isn't going to market themselves with fake grass, if you know what I mean.

The booths that annoyed me the most belonged to SOME of the big names. No, I will not be naming those names. You just read what I have to say, then think it over in your head and come to your own conclusions. I was bothered that some of the big names put very little time and money into their booths. It's one thing if you're a tiny company with limited resources and minimal floor space. But for big companies to have generic booths, minimal or no swag (for crying out loud...smaller companies ponied up t-shirts and you can't even offer a pen?), and less-than-dramatic advertising, whether posters, monitors, whatever....well, it's rather insulting. It's the big company saying, "I am already so well-loved that I do not need to earn your love", saying, "I'm so cool I don't have to try", saying "I'm so much better than you that you are awed just by my presence." WRONG. Humans are a fickle species, and there is only so much love we're willing to give unless we get some back. If, as a company, you don't market yourself all the time, one day you just won't have a market. Reputation is nice, but it isn't shiny, and we, as a people, like to look at shiny things. You can only go so long without something shiny before we stop looking.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Siggraph 2006-Where's Google?

I've become obsessed with getting this blog to show up on Google, and I can't seem to get it there. I want other Siggraph 2006 attendees to find me so we can swap notes on the week. And I want my nameless dance partner from the ACM Siggraph party to find this and at least tell me his name.

Help me out here, people. If you have some advice how to get this blog to show in the search engines, drop me a comment. If all I need is someone to link to me, then a few volunteers would be nice. I'd return the favor.

Siggraph 2006: Where's the Tech?

Siggraph Side Note...Where's the Tech?

Okay, I got an email asking, well, where's the technology? If Siggraph is the ultimate in CG tech fairs, how can I spend so many words without praising this new software or that new prototyping machine? It's fair question, so here's the answer:

The whole of Siggraph is greater than the sum of its technology.

Gasp in shock all you want, fellow nerds, but you read me right. No matter how revolutionary the new developments might be, the importance of Siggraph lies not in the technology displayed but the people who attended and the gestalt we formed. The technology is simply the thread that tied us all together.

Don't believe me? Would you pay $800+ to go to Siggraph if you were going to be the only living, breathing person in the conference center? And before you jump into a "yes" answer, think about this....many manufacturers will let you try a 30-Day demo of their software. From home. For free. Many manufacturers will let you volunteer as a beta tester for the latest and greatest in development. From home. For free. ILM, Pixar, SonyDreamworks, etc. all post job openings on their public websites. Which you can read about and apply for....drum roll, please... from home. For free.

So the underlying reality, the driving force behind the experience that is Siggraph, the reason we pay $800+ is so we can spend a week immersed in an intense, visceral, physical connection with our peers. We crawl out of our isolated caves, push pause on our virtual relationships, and interact face-to-face with real humans. We re-engage the real world that must be the underlying construct for the virtual ones we create.

Which means, yes, Virginia, going to a Siggraph party is just as important, if not more, than stopping by the Emerging Technologies exhibit. And that's why I'm blogging 'bout the party! :)


Siggraph 2006: Monday July 31

Siggraph Day Two, Part Two...Thank God for European Men!

J.D. and I dressed fairly fly for the ACM Siggraph party at the Roxy. I wore my white stretch jeans, a skin-tight stretch black polo, a flowered scarf belt, and my t-strap heels. J.D. opted for a more traditional, but no less cute, black summer skirt and white button down shirt. Yes, we heard a lot of lame yin-yang jokes over our unplanned outfit coordination. :)

We cabbed over to the Roxy for the party, and what a party it was! It started with a funky-cool techno fashion show; the light-up purse that said "Tease" was a personal favorite. I could see myself carrying something like that, if for no other reason than to remind myself that I'm not a complete corporate stooge.

After the fashion show, it was time to dance. Techno music for a techno people, of course. And thank God for all the European men who attended! They packed the dance floor in SECONDS, doing their own thing, which magically made it okay for EVERYONE to start dancing.

See, European men like to, that doesn't even cover it. European men are hell-bent on dancing, and they don't give a flip what anyone thinks about it. American men are mucho uptight about dancing, and most won't set foot on a dance floor unless specifically and directly accompied by a woman. (Much to the disappointment of us American women, I might add). If the ACM Siggraph party had been an American-only bash, the dance floor would have been 7 women who all knew each other and the 2 men dragged out there by their girlfriends. (The rest of us solo dancers would have shaken our rumps at the bar rather than daring the floor alone).

Since the European boys made it okay for everyone to dance, I left J.D. at the bar and hit the floor. At first I wasn't sure if I should leave her, but I felt compelled to move on after a particular Siggraph noteable, who shall be oh-so-nameless, was ogling me more than was appropriate. A little ogling is fine; heck, a lot of ogling is fine. Ogle away and make my day. But not when you are actually standing next to your wife who just happens to have her back turned. That's just creepy.

So I hit the floor to escape Mr. Ogler's eyes, and had myself a grand old time. Since I live in the real world as well as the virtual, I've got lots of clubbing experience under my belt, and I love any chance to do a good bump and grind. There is no better high.

I kept it solo for awhile, but I wound up sharing songs with the hottest male bump-and-grinder there. :) It was fabulous! He was utterly adorable, smelled really nice, and knew just where to put his hands. He wasn't afraid to dance low, he spun me several times, and we synched up so well. It was amazing intimate and thoroughly wonderful. (It also provided a much-needed ego boost. I've been feeling rather ugly of late, and well, not only was he a little hottie, he had to be younger than me. I'm guessing by at least 5 years, which, when you are 33, is a lot. Especially since most of the women present were in their early 20's). We never talked, so I didn't get his name, and I minimized eye contact because, well, eye contact can be too intimate, especially if you don't even know each other's names. Eventually, I had to get a drink, and he left the dance floor shortly after me and vanished into the night. Too bad, because I regret not getting his name. Dance that good deserves personal thanks. So if you are out there reading this, Mr. Siggraph Cutie in the blue-striped shirt, thanks for a good night. :)

And I had an epiphany about us 3D people as a whole. We are a repressed bunch of people. Only a repressed people could explode as thoroughly, as intensely, and intently as us ACM Siggraph folk did. I've never been to a club that could maintain a consistent level of energy, and positive energy at that, for that long. No gradual ramping up of energy, no lulls in the evening, no distracting bar fights, or bitch fights, for that matter. Just 100% intense party from the first second to the last note. It was spectacular!!! Good for us!


Siggraph 2006: Monday July 31

Siggraph Day Two, Part One....Joe Rohde's Ethno-Insane Earring

Since J.D. and I were out late the night before (who ends the night early when you're sitting next to Pixar folk?!), a bright and early morning wasn't in her personal forecast. Rather than spending my morning at Siggraph at the Guerilla Studio, I spent it sitting in the lobby of the Colonnade waiting for J.D., who was currently running an hour late. Argh!

On arrival, I was still Guerilla Studio-minded, but J.D. insisted on going to the keynote address which started in less than an hour. (Yes, we that late). Okay, fine, whatever. She was determined, so I gave in, but I warned her I would wander out if it wasn't interesting. On the way to get our seats, I joked that it would funny if, after all my fussing, I loved the keynote, given by Joe Rohde of Disney Imagineering, and she got bored and wandered out.

Hah hah...cue the dramatic music because that's exactly what happened! Joe was a fascinating speaker and a complete wild man (I have never seen an earring that dramatic on ANYONE, man or woman) and totally intelligent to boot. He talked about storytelling and image-branding, which I think a lot of 3D people tend to forget about, but is a topic near and dear to my marketing heart. Hopefully everyone was listening. It doesn't matter how many scary tentacles your nifty little character has; if the tentacles don't fit the story and the image, they shouldn't be there. End of story!

And Joe Rohde's earring could have been a story by itself. It was GIGANTIC, with tons of dangling things, colors, feathers, and possibly a live animal on it. It stretched his earlobe so large I could have stuck my hand through the hole. How anyone could have walked out with such an interesting spectacle to watch is beyond me.

After the keynote, we took the shuttle back to the hotel. That's right. All we did at Siggraph on Monday was the keynote. It's totally sad, and I'm getting irritated thinking about it now. But here's why....J.D.'s utter lack of non-virtual temporal and spacial understanding means little things, like having dinner, a task that I could accomplish in 45 minutes, takes 3-4 hours to accomplish with her. We wanted to go the ACM Siggraph party at the Roxy and I knew that if I didn't get her on the shuttle to the hotel by 4:30 pm, we would not make a party that starts at 9pm. And, I'm sorry, but that's just sad.

But by the time we dithered over where to eat (The Cheesecake Factory across from the Colonnade) and actually ate, over 3 hours had passed. Can you picture me screaming silently inside?


What if you threw a blog....

And no one came?

That's what I'm wondering as I record my Siggraph 2006 experience. I'm in the mood to share, yet Google doesn't seem to want to find my blog. And apparently, getting a blog to register on a search engine is a convoluted jumble of linking, trackbacking, pledge-song-singing, and other nonsense. I miss the days of good ol' fashioned HTML when a few lines of meta content was all you needed to be found.

That being said, the Siggraph recording continues. Sooner or later, this blog will be recognized, and perhaps other attendees will want to comment and share their experiences.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Siggraph 2006: Sunday July 30

My first day at Siggraph Pixar, parrots, and a naked Bostonian.

It was a piece of cake catching the shuttle in front of the Marriott, only a 1-minute walk from the Colonnade. (Oh, and a side note: everyone in Boston gives time-based directions, as in "It's only 10 minutes in that direction" or, as mentioned above "only a 1-minute walk." We don't do that here, and I found their directions disconcerting. What if I walk faster than the person giving me the directions? That's a distinct possibility considering my reputation as a fast walker). I had my little green wristband on, which I thought was a nice touch. I wish everyone at Siggraph got a wristband, not just the people staying at hotels that needed the shuttle. It would have made it easier figuring out who was in town for the conference and who was just in town.

I went through the doors of the convention center and my Siggraph virginity was blown away by the excessive air-conditioning. I was totally cute in my black MINI t-shirt with Union Jack lettering, white denim skirt, and t-strap walking heels, but, silly me, I left my winter jacket back home. I basically spent the rest of the week freezing wherever I went. Boston was having its hottest days ever....the heat was killing people, government offices were open til midnight to provide an air-conditioned environment for the less privileged, and the mayor was on TV asking people to set their thermostats at 80 to avoid overloading the power system and causing blackouts. Meanwhile, the convention center had their thermostat set on Meat Locker. I thought that was a bit tacky of them.

I attended the Open Season course put on by SonyDreamworks and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though I am a successfully employed animator, I don't work in the animation industry, so it was nice to learn the process behind creating an animated movie. Actually, nice doesn't cover it. I found it downright inspiring. Everyone who works in the industry specializes....modelers model, animators animate, texture artists create materials, lighting techs light, etc. I'm the ultimate generalist since I have to do everything from model to texture to light to animate to DVD production, but not all of those categories are my favorites. If I decide to get into the industry, I would never have to do lighting again, and that would be fabulous! :) Just learning that is worth the Siggraph registration fee!

After the class, I picked up the million billion pounds of literature that go with a full registration, shuttled it back to the hotel, then shuttled right back to catch some afternoon classes. I started in a class on modeling Urban Environments, but left once the presenter started talking about strings and other programmy-techy things. So I sorta kinda made my way to the class on materials.

I say "sorta kinda" because the class was on the second floor and I had, ahem, some issues getting there. The whole fear of heights thing made it impossible for me to take the escalator that high because it was in an open atrium looking down all the levels, and the one elevator I knew about crashed. Not crashed as in Kaboom but crashed as in it's programming died and it refused to be summoned. I wanted to take the stairs, and while there are stairs EVERYWHERE, none of them were available. They were all wired with alarms as emergency stairs. I finally found a second elevator, after asking 5 (!) building employees where to find another one. I had to keep asking because no one seemed to know. Apparently when you work for the Boston convention center, you are assigned a floor and there you stay, possibly forever.

The class on materials had been going for about 40 minutes when I walked in, and I only stayed for 5 minutes before deciding to leave. I couldn't hear the presenter well because she was basically muttering into the microphone--a common problem this week. Almost everyone given a microphone was scared of the sound of their own voice and proceeded to mutter, gargle, and otherwise render themselves incoherent to the listeners. The minute anyone heard their voice projected loudly and clearly, they startled, worried about being a nuisance, and went back to mumbling.

After walking out of the class, I decided to head back to the Colonnade. J.D. was due in late afternoon, and I figured she would want to do dinner. I should have spent some time going through the various rooms and displays and so forth, but I figured she would want to do them all and I thought it would be fun for us to see them together. Of course I was wrong. She has no concept of time (or space, for that matter, which is mind-boggling considering she is an animator, too) and runs late all the time, which means we were constantly out of time. Next year, assuming I make it all the way out to San Diego, I plan on viewing things a little more independently. (I say assuming because I will have to convince work to let me take my car because I am NOT taking the train, even if they pony up for a sleeper car).

As is, we didn't finish dinner until well after 8pm. We had the same cute waiter I had the day before, and J.D. took a liking to him. He asked me if I remembered him from the day before, which of course I did. After dinner we talked to two Brit Siggraphees in the lobby and found out there was a party at the Marriott that was just ending. Why didn't we know there was a party? Siggraph attendance is over 90% male, and you'd think that those in the 90% would want to make sure that those of in the 10% at least knew what was going on. And before anyone flames me because the event was listed in the little Conference and Exhibition Locator booklet, let me point out that there is no way of knowing that the event listed was going to be a party. It was a Birds of a Feather, of which there were many during the week, of which many required belonging to a particular special interest group, and there was no way of really knowing that it was open to all. Or that it was a party, for that matter. For all I knew, the Siggraph virgin that I was, Opening Barrel was a new type of source code.

But J.D. and I wandered over to the Marriott and indeed found a party that had apparently finished about 10 minutes before we showed up. Almost everyone was gone, although a man with a live parrot on his shoulder still remained, and yes, I wound up with the live parrot on my shoulder. All I needed was an eyepatch and I could have been a pirate. J.D. and I did get to talk to a few guys from France and Austria who were milling about, and the Austrian actually took a picture of my MINI shirt because he liked it so much. It was odd, though, because a non-computer-nerd probably would have taken the picture from my head to my waist, but he took a zoomed shot just on the words. Somewhere out there is an Austrian with a picture of my rack.

J.D. didn't like the bar in the lobby of the Marriott, so we walked back to the Colonnade for info. We ran into our cute waiter in his street clothes (very nice clothes, by the way) outside the hotel, and he recommended a place called the City-Bar in the Lenox Hotel. Since we didn't know how to get there, he offered to drive us, and J.D. accepted on our behalf before we could discuss whether that was a good idea or not. (It's never a good idea to get in a stranger's car, but he was short and I figured if a problem came up, I could take him in a fight). As it turned out, it was a totally fine thing to do. He was just being nice and wasn't expecting anything in return for his generosity. He gave us business cards for the restaraunt he plans on opening later this year, and said that we were some of the nicest customers he's ever had. Apparently the locals can be a bit, um, bitchy.

Anyway, the City-Bar was a fabulous choice (although they had no idea how to make a margarita because I wound up with straight tequila in a glass with a lime wedge) and I wish I had a million dollars to tip the waiter for getting us there. We noticed a group of people who looked very Siggraphy--lots of men and only one woman--and it turns out they were the contingent from Pixar!!!! That's right! We spent the next two hours chatting with some of the folks behind the best animated movies of all time. I've got the personal business card of one of their technical directors to prove it, too.

J.D. and I walked back to the Colonnade from the Lenox because I actually have a sense of direction and realized it wouldn't be far (about a 5-minute walk in Bostonian terms). On the way, we passed a dance club aimed at the 20-something set and a nice young local with an ultra-heavy Boston accent decided to take advantage of his drunken state and strip for us. He ripped his shirt off and dropped trou down to his boxers all while shouting, "Hey, youse ladies wanna have sex with me? I'll get naked for you." It was absolutely hilarious because he was so drunk and his friends were literally rolling in the streets laughing at him. I'll admit he had a nice body; obviously he works out a lot. :) Perhaps lifting all those beer bottles.


Siggraph 2006: Saturday July 29

I stayed at the Colonnade, one of the hotels on the Siggraph shuttle bus list. It was a nice hotel, far too nice for my 2-days-of-train couture. It has a pool on the roof and like the Chelsea as shown in Sex and the City, is also open to the general public who want to purchase a membership. Waaaay too high-rent for me. I wanted to take a little dip, but felt my Wal-Mart bikini and body sculpted only by Tae Kwon Do would be laughed out by all the plastic surgery wrapped in Gucci, Prada, Chanel, etc. As I walked back to my room, I laughed because I was teased for over-packing and it turns out I majorly under-packed by several million dollars.

I ate brunch in Brasserie Jo, the restaurant in the lobby. Very nice, although a bit too French for my taste. I had a really cute French waiter (I found out later he's an Albanian who speaks French)....almost model cute, really, with dark eyes, curly black hair, and rather friendly. After the train and the bus, it was nice to get a smile and some casual flirting.

After brunch, I went walkabout to see a bit of the city. The storm front that delayed my train hadn't completely blown through, so Boston was also an armpit. I rarely sweat, even when working out, and I was drenched after walking around for an hour. Lovely city, though.

I brought my laptop (sans battery and disk drives to save on weight) and wanted to get online, but the Colonnade charges an atrocious $14 for 24 hours of internet. What?!?! Even the most low-rent motel offers free broadband. I didn't know if work would pay for it, and since I'm responsible for anything they won't cover, I decided not to chance it. Maybe I would drag it to Siggraph itself and hook up there. Maybe. As a Siggraph newbie, I really wanted to do other things than check work email. :)

Jane Doe (pseudonym, duh!), the co-worker who would be joining me on Sunday, had been to Siggraph the year before, and she recommended I skip the Pathfinders thing on Saturday night. She thought I would find it boring. Now I'm bummed I listened to her (for more than one reason) because apparently there was a bit of a party with free food. Argh.

Note: As it turned out, she and I had very different ideas about what we wanted to see and do and accomplish at Siggraph, which caused some disconnect. She wanted to look at a lot of things and say "gee whiz." (She doesn't watch TV or see a lot of movies, so she has little exposure to animated shows). I wanted to talk to a lot of people and say "So, where do you work and what's it like?" She didn't understand, at least not at first, why I wanted to talk to anyone and everyone. Heck, even if I wasn't trying to network, I'm still lonely in the job. All 11 of us who do 3D for our company work independently of each other. I'm the only one who does what I do in my whole building, and for once it's nice to be surrounded by people who understand what a bitmap is and are willing to compare the number of computers in their render farm!


Siggraph 2006: Getting There

Getting to Siggraph was an absolute tatter. I don't like heights, so I don't fly (and, at 33, if I don't want to fly, then darn it, I'm not going to fly). I was more than willing to drive Giles, my darling MINI Cooper S, but work wasn't keen on expensing that much mileage. Plus, driving in Boston is a nightmare.

So I took Amtrak. Sort of. I knew the train out east tended to run behind, so I left a day earlier than normal, on Thursday July 27. I had a 9-hour layover in Chicago, and the city was 90 degrees with definitely the highest humidity I have experienced. In short, the city was one gigantic armpit. So I went to the well air-conditioned art museum and melded with the Magritte, Hopper, and Wood.

Back at the train station, I find out there are tornado WARNINGS for Cook County and other surrounding counties. Yaaah...I get to follow a tornado-producing storm front. (And that's basically what happened). The station was maybe theoretically air-conditioned, or maybe not even that. It was gross, dirty, and poorly laid out. And we were over an hour late boarding the train because um, they apparently forgot to actually bring the train to the platform. At least being late gave me the time to make a train-buddy; a cute little high school senior metrosexual. We totally enjoyed each others company the whole way.

Sleeping in coach is never great, and this crazy German lady made it worse. She was mid-60's and had no indoor voice whatsoever. At 4 in the morning, she decided to have a conversation with the people who just boarded in Toledo. At the top of her lungs. I shot her a look that made it clear I was seconds away from kicking her ass (and I was), and her response was "I guess we have to be quiet because people want to sleep." You think? It's 4 in the morning. I don't think she slept the whole trip because by 7am, she was bellowing into her cell phone. Had to have been a nuclear-powered phone, too, because she was on it for HOURS.

Due to tornados and flash flooding, the train was 6 hours late getting into Albany, NY. I planned to spend a night in Albany and catch the train to Boston the next day, figuring a good night sleep would do me well. Wrong. When I got to the hotel, I found out that corporate travel booked me for the wrong night! Fortunately, they still had a room available, and I do mean fortunately, because I promptly got motion-sick. I felt fine the whole time I was on the train, but once I got off, I couldn't stop feeling the train. So rather than soaking in the hot tub and catching up online, I laid on the bed clinging to the wastebasket and thanked God that at least I didn't have to get sick in one of the nasty-ass train bathrooms.

The cabbie who took me to the hotel recommended that I take the bus to Boston Saturday morning. Why take a 6 hour train trip that is 6 hours delayed when Greyhound leaves on time and only takes 3 hours? So Saturday morning I arrived at the Albany bus depot bright and early. Ugh. It was a dump, and I don't know how to expense report a breakfast of Twizzlers bought out of a vending machine, but hey, the bus got me to Boston by 1pm. Thank you, Greyhound!


Siggraph 2006: Intro

Okay, this is being written a day after I get home from Siggraph. I had very limited access to computers while there (rather ironic if you think about it), so I didn't get a chance to blog.

Siggraph is the ultimate expo/tradeshow/get-together/hoe-down for those of us in the computer graphics/3D animation field. There are courses, papers, presentations, art gallery, an emerging technology gallery, a job expo, a trade show, etc. Several co-workers in other departments have gone in previous years, but my group never had the budget money to send me. Until this year. I begged, pleaded, and wrote a brief paper on why I had to go to Siggraph, and money was allocated. Whoohoo...I'm going to Siggraph!

I'm excited about Siggraph, but pissed at Autodesk. 3D Studio MAX is my primary software package, mainly because it plays well with AutoCAD, which is used by my place of employment. Anyway, a week after I register for Siggraph, I get an email from Autodesk about Master Classes that are being held in Boston at the same time as Siggraph. Convenient location, sure, but it had separate registration (read: separate registration fee) from Siggraph. Too late for me to ask for more money. Besides, Siggraph is a dawn-to-dark event all on it's own without laying a separate conference on top of it. Oh well. No Masters Classes for me.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

I'd Rather Jack Them All

I'm a jack-of-all-interests and a master of none. I'm okay with that. In fact, I prefer it that way. I'd rather enjoy a variety of things than obsess about the excruciating minutia

For instance, I like watching The Simpsons. I watch them every Sunday. I have all available seasons on DVD, and I'm currently reading a book called Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation by Chris Turner. But that's where my involment in The Simpsons ends. I don't participate in online forums, I don't refer to episodes by enigmatic production codes, and while I often quote lines from the show, I can't necessarily tell you what episode it was from. Like, yawn, if you know what I mean.

The problem is that fanatics tend to condescend to non-fanatics. I should be able to explore my interests through trade shows, conventions, gatherings, online forums, and theme stores without catching attitude for my non-fanatic status.

It's starting to get on my nerve. Intensity does not confer validity.

Instructables can be...


Aren't they always?

The title is a quote from the English translation of a 1960 Honda motorcycle manual. I don't actually have this manual. My first exposure to the manual and its astounding revelation came from Jay Leno, who quoted from the manual in his article, "An Art Form Lost," in the March 2006 Popular Mechanics (Volume 183, No.3, for those keeping track). Thanks for sharing, Jay. Who knew such wisdom could be found in a motorcycle manual?

It's time I became a blogger and share my confusables. I've been web-worthy since 1991, when I played my first MUD, and a site owner since 1997, when I coded a showcase for my 3D renderings in good old Notepad. I've held off on blogging, though, because, well, who knows? I can think of a dozen valid reasons why I didn't blog before (I've already got a web site, I use a computer all day at work, etc.), and only one vague reason why I'm doing it now (uh, why not?).

Actually, that's not true. It's time I started blogging because I've got something to say....many somethings, really. I can't guarantee that anyone will listen, but at least I gain the satisfaction of having said it all in the first place. It's off my chest and into the aether of a million faceless strangers. Welcome to cyber-therapy.