April 24, 2008

No Involvement with the Olympic Torch Relay

The Olympic torch is passing through Canberra at the moment (it’s probably finished its public tour by now). I’m not entirely sure why, given it’s a bit of a detour from the path between Greece and Beijing. I suppose it’s to help build support for the Olympics, but it’s not as if you need much hype for such a major sporting event in sport-mad Australia. Especially since it’s being held in roughly the same time zone as us.

I didn’t bother going to see the torch, as it’s not exactly super important to me. Given this is Canberra, it’d be attended by a mix of Chinese nationals and supporters (we’ve got a big multicultural mix here), combined with the protest groups for Tibet or Falun Gong that seem to have permanently camped outside the Chinese embassy. I doubt there’ll be any violence, but the whole show just doesn’t seem like my kind of thing.

Apart from not doing anything regarding the Olympic torch, which unsurprisingly has not taken a lot of effort, I’ve been spending a bit of time thinking ahead for what I’m going to do with the website after I complete my studies in a couple of months time. I’m most likely to be wrapping up my Ph.D. thesis write-up in June, but I have not yet got anything definite planned for after that.

I’ve still got dreams of starting my own on-line game business; selling indie games over the ‘net to make a living. I’ve got plans for how I could get that up and running, but it’s not without a whole truck load of risk. I’d probably be burning through my savings pretty quickly for the first year at least. So the question I’m debating is whether I go for broke by running with the online business idea full time, head into a more traditional career path, or (my current favoured option) a blend of some type of possibly part-time employment that also allows me to run the online business on the side.

This isn’t something I’m going to decide upon very soon. I’ve still got a couple of months left before I’m done here, and it wouldn’t be amiss taking a couple of months holiday afterwards. I’m moderately astute at saving money up for a rainy day, so it’s not as if I’m going to be begging for scraps this year, at least. But it is something that now the end of my formal education is nigh I’ve got to keep bubbling around in my mind so I make a decently informed decision.

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April 15, 2008

Cartooning practice and Inkscape 0.46

School’s out for a fortnight here at uni. Which as a PhD student who is tutoring means I get two weeks of unfettered PhD write-up time. I’m pretty worn out from the teaching and marking over the last couple of days, although it just might be lack of sleep catching up with me.

I’ve also noticed a few more trackings from Inkscape fans to the tutorial I made for Order of the Stick avatars. I’m guessing people need Inkscape tutorials. Once my PhD write-up is over I’ll write up some more (general purpose this time).

I need some practice with the new version however. And practice in general. I’m not that much of an artist really, and my cartooning really needs some brushing up.

I’ve started playing around with Inkscape 0.46 by just giving it a spin in creating a character using my old techniques:

  1. Sketch out a draft with pencil on paper.

  2. Resketch it using the calligraphy tool in Inkscape on a draft layer
  3. Construct the figure out of basic shapes and curves (this is the long part)
  4. Put in any special effects, shading, corrections and what-have-you.


This is a pretty early concept for the character “Eight” that part of one of two ideas for a webcomic that I’d like to launch later this year. I still haven’t made up my mind about the little details like colouration and accessories.

So far the process for creating this character isn’t working - not because of the final output, but because it take so freakin’ long to do. I don’t know if it’s because I’m out of practice in the whole Inkscaping, but it could just be I don’t have an efficient process. To test this, I’ll give making this character another go, but this time using a more traditional inking based approach - both digitially and on paper. I’m rubbish at paper inking and almost as rubbish at digital inking, but it’s something I should at least try to see how it turns out.

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April 10, 2008

Thoughts on tutoring

My tutoring schedule runs one week on, one week off. This week is on, and so it’s pretty teaching intensive, which means PhD write-ups tend to drop off for a few days as I use my energy towards teaching

Part of the problem work wise is that I’m teaching a fourth year course (Computer Vision). Despite how good you think you know the material it’s always hard to teach a third year or above course as the material is never trivial. You invariably have to relearn things and then think about how to explain them. In my case I have to learn some things for the first time, as most of my computer vision knowledge was self-taught for the purposes of my research and I’ve focused on the areas I need.

My favourite subject to teach/tutor is second year algorithms and data structures. There’s usually an equivalent in every computer science course. It’s one of the first purely computer sciencey subjects a student will learn after getting to grips with a programming language. As a topic it’s also the sort of thing a good programmer will already need to know for their work, so it’s a breeze to refresh on the theory. You can then concentrate on figuring out the best way of teaching it to students, which is the fun part.

I’ve tutored first year introduction to programming classes too, and while the subject matter is easy the teaching is a lot harder. The problem is that if you’ve been programming for a while you most likely cannot remember what it was like when you first learnt a language, and with programming its one of these things where student go through stages where they need a flash of insight to get from “just don’t get it” to “now I do”. But if you’ve been programming for a while or from a young age you just can’t remember what the bits were you don’t get, as you’ve been breaking problems down into programs all your life. It’s like teaching early algebra to kids (something I’ve also done); it’s really hard to understand exactly why the students are having trouble because you’ve been using letters to replace numeric unknowns for as long as you can remember.

I’ve also been out of the teaching schtick for a while, so my voice isn’t up to the task. On the weeks I’ve got on, I tend to be talking nearly non-stop, and as a generally quiet individual my vocal chords aren’t geared to that kind of use. By the weekend I’ll have probably lost my voice again. Good thing most of what I do tends not to require it.

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April 3, 2008

Putting on a new look

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about what I’d like to do after I finish up my PhD study. I still don’t know what I’d like to do immediately, but there’s still a large part of me that wants to do the whole indie developer thing. I don’t know if I could do this full time, and I certainly don’t think I could straight out of uni, but it’s something I don’t think I should dismiss. At the very least it’d be a good hobby, and with a modest effort it could easily be a decent source of income.

I’ve deviated a lot off my original plan that I wrote a few years back for how to get there (according to the original plan, I’d have been selling games two years ago), and now I’m in the final throes of my PhD I don’t have the time for anything major. But I can still work towards the goal in my spare time, albeit slowly.

First on my list is to resurrect the original purpose of this journal - to get some experience in managing a website. I’ve been letting this site stagnate for a bit too long, defeating the original purpose. So it’s time to reinvent the site and make it look a bit like one I’d need if I were launching the commercial version.

To start, I’ve made a new theme to replace the light, airy minimalist one that was here. This one is loosely modelled off the look of my GameDev journal, although I won’t go as far as making the headers all Comic Sans to emulate the comic book look. I’m debating whether I should put an image as the background; sometimes I find them distracting, but a nice pattern can work well if it’s carefully chosen. I might also play around with the colours a bit once I’ve seen the site in action. I also need to see if this font works well for blogs - I’m not sure how Trebuchet MS handles large blocks of text at smaller sizes.

I’ve also retired the poll I’ve had up for ages: building blocks had been winning for quite a while (probably the game developer influence there!). I’ll try cycling them around a bit more often.

Any suggestions for the site look? Any layout bugs I’ve missed?

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