Monday, August 19, 2013

Just Dance: Dancing Your Way To Healthy!

It all started about a month ago when I was invited to a birthday party. I didn't know it at the time, but this party would change my life.

It started out like any other party, with the meeting of weird people you don't know, the eating of greasy munchies, and the private gloating over your present and how awesome it is. But soon, the tides began to change. The last present my friend opened was a game called 'Just Dance 3.'

"Cute," I thought. "But totally ridiculous." Then I started playing it.

And I couldn't stop.

I was having so much fun! I was dancing to peppy music, laughing with people, and sweating away the calories from the munchies. Now, this might have just been because I've been a dancer since I was four years old, I won second place in a regional championship dance competition with my studio, and I had been in more than 12 professional quality recitals.

But, then again, my mom had a lot of fun, too! She's thirty-ish years older than me and took ballet once, when she was six. Now, it's our regular exercise program. And with five games to choose from and a new one coming out every few months, its hard to get tired of the music.

So, Just Dance: cleverly disguised exercise program? I certainly think so.

Letter Scams, Email Scams, Facebook Scams. Oh, My!

Think that scammers only attack you via email and snail mail? Think again. Scammers can get you through Facebook, too. One scam that I see a lot of my friends falling for is the 'Like this picture to show you care!' scam. While not immediately malicious, it can get you added to a suckers list. How does this happen? It starts with an innocuous looking picture, quote, video, etc. When you see it on Facebook, it will generally stir up a strong emotion in you. A common example of this that I've seen is the "I have a terminal illness! 'Like' so that the doctors will cure me!" That, combined with a pathetic looking picture, tugs on your heart strings, so you click 'Like,' and go on your merry way.
'Like' isn't helping.
Little do you know, the picture you 'Liked' is a list of suckers, collected for the purpose of selling your name and information to the highest bidder. (How to Avoid FB Scams: C|Net)

Kinda scummy, right?

All you wanted to do was to show that you care. People that make these scams count on that. It all comes down to a bit of basic, human psychology. You see that poor little kid, dog, house plant, whatever, and you think to yourself, "I wish I could do something!" Well, you can, if the caption of the photo is to be believed. Just click like! And, gosh. Does that feel good! Not to mention, your small act of 'kindness' shows up on your Feed, letting all your friends know that you really care. And you'll feel proud of yourself when your friends see the picture and 'Like' it, too. Which plays right into what the scammers want.

I'd be lying if I said that I never felt a twinge of guilt, sorrow, or emotional pain whenever I see those little pictures. Feeling sorry for those people is perfectly natural and completely human. But, in most cases, the person whose picture you're 'Liking' may not even know about the scam, or the use of their picture. So you're not even letting that poor person know that you care!

When it comes to kindness, there really is no 'easy way,' such as 'Liking' a picture. The best way to help people is to walk away from the computer and do something. You can volunteer at your local shelter or thrift store. You can even dedicate your life to helping people by becoming a doctor. Actually helping people is a lot more rewarding and satisfying than just clicking 'Like.' Plus, when you're all done, you can post about it on Facebook and get the 'Likes' from all your friends.


Facebook scams aren't the only scams out there. The US Postal Inspectors have some great videos about scams.
Facebook also has a page to help you learn about scams.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Face Page

A few months ago, I was talking with my Grandma over the phone. She had been spending a lot of time with one of my Aunts, at that point. She had also been getting regular access to a computer and internet.

Let me give you some history: When I was about 8-12, my dad build a computer for my grandma so that she could email us and so that my parents could send her pictures of us adorable youngsters. My grandma insisted that it was 'too complicated' and that she was not at all technical. So, my one male cousin inherited the computer.

Many years later, I'm on a phone call with my grandma, talking with her, catching up and the like. Then, she starts talking about how wonderful this new fangled 'Face Page' thing is.

It took a few seconds for me to figure out what she meant, and then a great deal of will power to get through the call without laughing my brains out my nose.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Monsters University: I'm Seeing It For the Lighting

Well. Crap. I might just have to see Monsters University, now.

Apparently, Pixar is the grand master of faking shadows, reflections, and refractions in its movies. At least, they were. Now, apparently, they completely reworked their lighting system to use REAL raytracing, shadows, etc.

The reason I'm not super excited about seeing it is because of the advertisements and because of Brave. The ads I've been seeing in the theater for MU have been pretty bad looking. It looks like there's little to no plot, the characters look like cardboard cut-out representations of the original characters, and the monsters from Mon. Inc. seemed more like the GED, blue-collar type to me than college grads. In their defense, the ads for The Incredibles were horribly terrible and portrayed the movie as being a series of fat guy jokes. Turns out, the movie was AMAZING. All the same, this movie seems to be built for a 'target audience' of college students, post-college grads, and anyone who loves dumb college jokes/humour/setups.

But, in light of all of this, the inner animation nerd in me screams that the movie could be okay and enough to tolerate, especially since it will be a demonstration of animation technology. Pixar, regardless of how bad the plots and stories are for their movies, the technology is always top-notch. And a job at Pixar is what my dreams are made of.

I went to see Brave for the hair, even if the story was an old story, rewrapped and trimmed. Now, I'll probably see MU for the lighting.

As complaints go, though, complaining about having to see a movie is kinda low on the world problems list.

(Bee tee dubs, guys, here's the article that I found out about the lighting in.)

Friday, June 14, 2013

ZBrush: The First Experiences

My First Sculpt

While I was going to school, this year, I was eagerly anticipating the time when my classes would end. I couldn't wait until I had free time because, as soon as school was over, I could begin learning how to use the amazing modelling program ZBrush.

For those of you that aren't into modelling or animation, ZBrush is essentially a program that lets you sculpt and model on the computer in the same sort of fashion that you would with clay. It gives you lots of flexibility and a lot of tools to fully express your creativity. It's also one of the best programs in the industry, not to mention one of the cheapest at the low price of $700. For those of you that just suffered from a minor heart attack, let me give you some examples: 
AutoDesk Mudbox                    $795
AutoCAD                                 $5,525
3DS Max                                 $3,675
Maya                                       $3,675
Cinema4D Prime                       $995
EIAS 9                                       $895
LightWave 3D                        $1,485

Since Autodesk Maya is one of the most commonly used software packages for 3D modelling and animation, I hope you can see why $700 is such a bargain. But even with this price tag, the question arises: "How did a poor college student (with claims of a savings of 7 cents) afford ZBrush?" Let's just say that I have connections with a business owner who owns the software.

All that aside, I've been working with ZBrush for a couple weeks now. While it can be EXTREMELY frustrating, it is also the most beautiful and glorious thing I have ever used. My first forays into ZBrush produced some bizzare creations (especially when I learned clip brushes). But, I also produced some semi-finished pieces, the first of which you can see in my picture and here, on my YouTube Channel. My dragon head was created with nothing but the sculpt brushes and a PolySphere. For those of you that know about ZSpheres, you can understand why, shortly after I learned how to make a ZSpheres body for my dragon, my first proclamation to the world, via FaceBook, was:

I have just discovered my true love: ZSpheres. We will be wed next week.

For those of you that don't know what ZSpheres are, I recommend you go here

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Punk: The Non-Conformist's Uniform

You know what bothers me about punk? It's not supposed to be mainstream. And yet darn near everyone, their uncle, and their dog is 'punk.' The spiky, multicoloured hair isn't edgy: it's cool. Stickin' it to The Man is commonplace. Anarchy is considered to be thoughtful, not rebellious. And you know what really drives me crazy? Punk, while claiming to be the Rebellion, attributes it political philosophy to one of the most common and accepted types of political thinking: Liberalism. (Based on the election results, anyways.)

What I want to know is why kids aren't trying to rebel more. Why are kids rebelling against their liberal parents? "Forget the Earth! We don't need it! We've got Mars! KILL THE EARTH!" "I don't want to be gender-conscious! One way or the other! I'm going to bake a cake, sew a dress, then weld my robot together."

And don't get me started on their clothing. While they claim to be Stickin' It to the Man, they buy mass-produced clothing from multi-million dollar corporations. "I'm gonna wear clothing that every other nonconformist wears!" LAME. Why not make your own clothing? Get the cloth out of a dumpster, use your floss for thread. And put some ruffled collars on your shirts. No one will see that coming. And, you won't be paying money the The Man.

Know what? Forget punk. I'm going to start my own nonconformist movement called Skunje. We don't wear mass-produced clothing, we don't side with any 'proper' political philosophy, and we'll frost cupcakes and program in C++ in the same day.

THAT'S non-conformist.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Brief Summary of Every Manga/Anime, Ever

So. In shonen manga, there are several stereotypical character archetypes:

1) The weak one who wants to be stronger, and who cries more water than any human can hold in their body.

2) The super awesome, bad boy. He can take out anyone except for the main bad guy.

3) The amazingly annoying and brash young man who believe he can do anything, even after he's had his butt handed to him on a silver platter.

4) The big breasted woman with a bucket load of attitude. She's bossy, mean, and pushes everyone around, but she's still still top dog and no one can kill her.

5) The crazy, evil genius that everyone trusts until he starts killing people. Even then, the main character still tries to believe they're a good person. And fails.

6) The psycho, crazy kid who JUST HAPPENS TO BE WHERE NO CHILD SHOULD EVER, EVER BE, BUT NONE OF THE CHARACTERS SEE IT COMING.

I mean, seriously. Kid in a super dangerous dungeon/maze/laboratory/whatever. If I had a nickel for every time a manga-ka did that, I'd buy a plane ticket to Japan and personally ninja kick each one I could find in the face.

Now that I'm done ranting, I would just like to say that I think I've out grown manga and anime.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Life Lessons Learned from Mad Men

I've been watching Mad Men, lately. In short, it's a show based in the late '50s, early '60s about the business men that work on Madison Ave. in NY. There's a lot of politics (not the congressional sort), people interactions, and a few clever advertising schemes. The men are either married, have mistresses, or both.

The show's gotten me thinking. A lot of the smart women in the show get what they want, but they put themselves out to get it. Sometimes, I think that I could get more out of life if I were to be like that. I always come to the conclusion that it isn't worth it, though, and that I'm not that kind of person. I have to get what I want the hard way by working for it honestly. And then, there's the fact that I can't flirt to save my life. I'm better at putting my feet behind my head. God help me.

So, thank goodness for some personal short-comings, eh?

Friday, May 31, 2013

And They Shall Conquer the World in Silly Costumes

So I was driving around in Roseville, going shopping for my various supplies for my classes, and getting hopelessly lost. As I was fuming at a stoplight, I happened to notice a dude in a Statue of Liberty costume, waving a Liberty Mutual sign and waving to people. I waved back.

Then I got to thinking, in the way that a mad scientist does. If that dude were to just be standing on the corner in his normal togs, waving to people, he'd be considered a public oddity and would probably be attack by the police for suspicion of being under the influence of whatever. Mothers would hurry past with their small children, big, beefy men would come up to the dude and tell him to "buzz off. You're bothering my girlfriend."

But, put that same dude in a costume, however dorky, and let him continue to wave, suddenly he becomes alright. Kids wave at him through windows, big beefy men honk their horns as they drive past, and police only give him the gimlet eye.

My conclusion to all of this? Put big scary robots in colorful, silly costumes, and suddenly world domination will be accepted with smiles, waves, and cheerful car horns.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Constant Contact with Everyone, But We're Still Alone

You know, all this technology, Facebook, and other things are great. We're in constant contact with anyone and everyone. I can talk with a man in Australia, China, and England, all at the same time, as long as I have a computer as the mediator. I can converse about politics and religion all day, without ever having to look anyone in the face. And yet, with as neat as this is, we talk to so many people while we sit in complete solitude infront of our computers.

The email, the facebooking, the texting, and everything else has us talking to people all the time, where we have instant access to anyone and everyone. And yet, we never see the person's face, body language. We never hear the laughter or sarcasm in people's voices. When a time comes that we get to see the virtual personalities IRL, we're so used to the words on a glowing screen that seeing a person's face seems strange. I can't tell you the number of times I've had a long conversation with someone over the internet or wavelengths, only to be followed by meeting with the person, in person, and having nothing to say, nothing to do but look at our shoes.

All of this connectedness is great, to a point, but when people start thinking that online conversations are real socializing, we start to lose sight of what socializing actually is. Seeing someone, talking to someone, hearing their tone of voice, seeing their expressions, reading their body language. All of this is lost through the technological middle man. Emoti-cons don't do body language justice. You just can't capture the subtleties and nuances of a face to face conversation with LOL :D.

So, I'm going to get right to the point, put on my old man hat and squawk,
'Everything's going to Hell in a handbasket!'

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Transition From Science to Art

So, about a year ago, I found out that, as much as I might love math and physics, they do not love me. In the cramped, fast-paced world of college classes, I couldn't keep up. Fortunately, I don't give up easily. It took a few months of soul searching, but I soon found that, instead of being an Astrophysicist like I had planned on being since I was 14, I was better suited to being a computer animator. While looking through my various options and degrees, it looked like getting a Bachelors in Fine Arts was the way to go.

To better understand the magnitude of this decision, let me give you some Amaryllis History. My mom works at HP as a IT consultant, she has a BS in Psychology, and has always loved the sciences. My dad is, in short, a rocket scientist. He's worked on the Space Shuttles' instrumentation, air planes, fighter jets, missiles, you name it. Me? When I was very little, I wanted to be an Astronaut. About when I was fourteen, I decided that I wasn't competitive enough to be an Astronaut, so Astrophysicist seemed the logical next step. I graduated a year early from high school (as Valedictorian, I might add), then immediately jumped into my first college math class: Calculus 1. I aced that class, went to college for two years, then decided that I would rather be a computer animator.

Becoming a computer animator, a mere artist, wasn't an easy decision.

Then came my transition from the world of brilliant engineers and physicists, to the world or emotional, illogical artists. Artists, who don't calculate, but FEEL. Artists who don't formulate or postulate, but emote. Since the beginning of the year, I've been in contact with artists and only artists, excluding my parents. So, is it any wonder that the first unattached, male engineer I run across I find extremely attractive? I think not. Not that his good looks don't help, but, like any good zombie fan, I only want men for their BRAAAAIIINSSS.

It's been a different experience to come across people that share my artistic talent, as opposed to my mathematical talent. While most of the people I run across are very creative, they aren't always really bright or thoughtful. Sure, they can create a bowl that signifies bravery, honour, and pizza, but they can't formulate ideas or concepts having to do with science, economics, or politics. The artists can come up with inventive ways to represent a person through a few simple lines, and evoke a strong emotion. They can explain the symmetry, shape, and texture of an engine, but they can't explain how it works.

But the transition into art hasn't been all weird and annoying. I've found that a fair portion of the people that I run into in my art classes are more mature than those in my math and science classes. That might just be because I'm on a different campus, but I think I'll just give art students the benefit of the doubt.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Drawing the Human Head, not the Manga Head...

So, for the large majority of my life, I've been an artist. I've drawn, painted, sculpted, danced, composed music, and animated. When I was younger, I largely copied my dad's art style: blocky with limited definition. Still, it's a great style. Then, when I was a teenie-bopper, I discovered this magical, beautiful, and loverly style called: Manga. I instantly fell in love with it. The first anime I ever watched (other than Pokémon, everyone's seen that) was Yu-Gi-Oh! For those of you that have never seen it and never wish to see it, it's a show where people bellow rules at each other about their infernally stupid card game. Sure, there's life, death, and money involved, but the the entire show boils down to bellowing and rules' lawyers. Yet, I was at a tender, impressionable age, where big, shiny eyes, gravity-defying hair, and ridiculous clothing were all that was needed to make me a hard-core fangirl.

So, from about the time I was 12 to the time I was 19, all I ever drew was Manga. Big eye, crazy hair, and skinny boys. Then, I matured at the ripe, old age of 20 and discovered that there really was a "Bigger World" out there. Beyond the repetitive plot lines and inconsolable cry-babies of the Anime Otaku world, I discovered this thing called "real life," and all that it entailed in the art world. I learned that, yes, your eyes really are smaller than your ears. No, your hair won't come to a perfect, upright spike, no matter how much gel you use. And yes: noses are so much more than a little '>' sign.

The more I practiced drawing realistically proportioned people, the more I came to discover exactly how screwed up the Manga/Anime styles are. After about two months of fighting with hips and shoulders, I came to loathe Manga and everything it stood for. Soon, I learned the beauty of the human figure when drawn properly. I learned the joys of drawing a delicate, yet distinct nose. And I was converted to the truth of small eyes. Everything I had been missing for 7 years of my life, I found, waiting patiently for me to discover it.

My name is Amaryllis Graybill, and I've been anime clean for a year.