Friday, January 25, 2013

Project gatecrash.

I heard the last ten minutes of a lecture to the first years by Arthur Parsons of Travelers' Tales.  Pretty good stuff.

I got in just as he was giving out a brief to the first years.  They were to create a cut scene, level design (boss battle, I think) and a few LEGO characters for one of three games: Wizard of Oz, The A Team or Dr Who.

So I thought "I'll do that."

I'll show you what I have when I can scan it in.  I figured I'd pop my work in there with the final project.  Why not?!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A little more research.

After (re)finding the wonderful magazine 'MAKE', I saw a little online clip they had advertising one of their issues that utilised Augmented Reality.  I also found a link that they had to the Layar website and followed it, creating my own account and the ability to create Augmented Reality apps/layers for myself!  Finally! is the site that I'm on now and I can't wait to get started!

Here are a few more links to various videos and things that I'm also looking at this afternoon: - an introduction to Layar. - explaining how it's done.

There is not much of a downside, really.  Pricing is pretty cheap, so that's a bonus.  For the free service, there will be Layar ads floating round with whatever it is I'd want as my Augmented Reality image and the Pro service - with no ads - is about 15 Euros per page.  Whether I can print several pages of the same thing and have them all work remains a mystery, but I can't see why that'd be a problem.

Oh, I've also been given the description 'approved Layar Developer', too.  That makes me happy. - Speakers Academy magazine has utilised Augmented Reality in their Spring 2012 issue.  The magazine is fairly word-heavy and does have a good number of images throughout but there's something about seeing the speakers doing what they do that appealed to the editors, which is why they included it.

Finally, is the site that has given me the first two youtube links.  It's also where I'm going to be going when I need to create my Layar stuff - it's a big ol' page of steps to take to create a Layar layer.

Fun stuff.


Faster than I expected.

Although I need to practice a lot (and also re-learn anatomy), I've been shown a wonderful way of getting a nice, smooth surface for my alien and - at the same time - have the ability to sculpt the thing like clay or some other such material.  Wizard!

Here it is at the moment.  Apologies for the early anatomy - I just wanted to get a good idea of how the process works:

I've taken away his eyes for the time being.  What's going to be easier - now that I'm focusing on the shape and not a low poly count - is to make eye sockets and then fill them with a ridiculously high-poly spheres.  Yea!

As I said, the anatomy leaves much to be desired, but I now have a great deal of time to re-sculpt this guy - even if it's a couple of limbs at a time.  What's also good about this is that I can duplicate this alien and create an example of the other castes of the society.  Not a bad idea.

I'm off to see if I can find some modeling clay to make a bust of one of these at home.  Might be good fun to try.


This week's goal.

This week's goal is to up the poly count on my alien so that I can send it the the high-res 3D printer on Tuesday the 30th of January.

It's going to be a long haul, but I'm more than ready to see it finally come to a point where I can have a good model for the project. I got my results back this morning for my first semester and it was a bit of a wake up call, so here's to a higher gear.

At the moment, my alien looks like this:

Thanks to the ever-helpful university computers, I've had to log out of Internet Explorer and into Firefox so that I can access my images and post this image.  Otherwise the only images I'd have been able to choose from would have been ones that I have already posted.  Frustrating, much?

Here's the pose that I'm wanting for the final thing - my goal now is to go over it and over it until it is at a level that I'm happy with printing it in high-res 3D.

It's a basic pose, but it's only to represent my ideas in 3D.  I'll still be drawing a whole lot to get my ideas across in a better way.

Now for lunch.


In the field.

I decided to go out and do some research-type stuff.  I found a relatively new games store in town so I thought I'd go in and ask them a few questions.

The store is called Worthy Gaming and from what I gather, it used to be a professional painting service - a place for people to bring their various tabletop armies and have them painted very, very well.  In the past few months, they decided to take a leap and become an independent gaming store.  It's nice to have because it's not a Games Workshop.  GW is good and all, but as with most retail stores, it's very much in your face sales.  I'm familiar with it all because I work in retail myself, but it's just a bit too much.  If I wanted paint, I'd buy paint.  If I needed brushes, I'd buy brushes.  I realise it's all part of what they have to do in order to get their figure to where they need to be, but it's all in the delivery.  I went in a while ago to buy a model.  I knew which model it was but had to turn down several other (more expensive) models before getting to the one I wanted.  Each model came with lines such as "This one and this one will make a very unique piece in your army if you mix and match the bits," and "From your description, I'd say this is the one you're really after."  Fair enough to the former.  No it's not to the latter.  I just wanted to buy my little toy and get out and play with it.

Worthy Gaming, on the other hand, is an independent retailer.  They hold a range of games from the better known Warhammer to the maybe lesser known Malifaux and Infinity.  They also have a good few card games, too.  Because they have such a range, they are not very forceful with their sales.  They'll talk about the good points and bad points about your choices (if you ask for it) but they'll otherwise trust that you're going to be buying the things that you really need.  And that you'll come back for other things as and when you need them.

That's a completely different post about customer service and returning customers vs selling things now, but I really haven't got the time to be doing that.

I digress.

I went to Worthy Gaming with a big list of questions regarding art style, model quality, ease of play.  Basic questions and questions that were predictably paired - "Based on the models alone, which game would attract you most?"  Followed by "Based on the models alone, which game would least attract you?"  Basic questions, but things that I really needed to know in regards to the direction of my design.

I asked them which games they found easier to pick up, which games they found more suited to them in terms of rules and play, their preferred art direction, the best game for models.  Then I was asking them about the layout of the card games they hold.  Which ones were the easiest to play and why, which layout they preferred and why.

It was a really great experience and I learnt a fair bit.  I can use this to help direct my project by seeing what layout I should have the cards created with and the overall mechanics of the game.

Now, though, it's back to good old Maya and the hope that I can make something aesthetically pleasing but also usable.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Pretty much done.

I've labeled my posts!  It was so much easier than going in to each post and writing a line mentioning something so that the search tool would find it!  There's a labeling ability that means I could go through my blog, look at all of the posts and decide what labels to give them.  Everything from Misc. to Photog to Doodled and Travel.  Wonderful!

Have a go - look at the tags down the left hand side and click the ones that you're interested in.

Good isn't it?!

I'd normally put a picture here, but the computer I'm on will only let me pick a picture that I already have on the blog.  Seeing as though I've done this a lot recently, I'll just leave it.  I'll use a different computer next time.


Under maintenance.

Today was going to see me go through my entire post archive and make amendments so that the links work and when you click on the 'University Bits' tag on the left; you'll be given a list of all of my university-related posts.  Because I included this tag system after I'd written nearly 230 posts, I now have to look at my posts, decide which tags they are most suited for and then edit them with a little line with what the post is about and in that line, must include the words that I want the post included in.

That was today's to-do list.  But, as with the greatest to-do lists, it's been put off for another day.  For today, I have no scheduled lectures, so instead of going in to uni, I'm going to have lunch with my wifey and then make my way over to Worthy Gaming - a new(ish) game store in town.  It's been here for three months or so, but it's quite out of the way, so I only found it last week.  They have the usual Games Workshop stuff but they also hold a lot of other companies' lines - Privateer Press, etc.  (I say 'etc.' because I only remember the Privateer Press).

My plan is to go in and have a word with the guys who work there.  I'm going to be conducting some research.  That's it.  Research.

I know they run game nights four nights a week, but I'm really wanting to talk to a couple of people to start with, so I figured the middle of a uni day would be the best time.  I'm going to ask them about the mechanics of their favourite games and least favourite games; why they like one mechanic, what they'd change about the things they don't like; that sort of stuff.

I'm looking forward to it because they are really friendly.  Their painted models in the windows are all sorts of amazing, too, so they'll be nice to look at for a good while.  It's one of those give up or get better things that I talked about a couple of weeks ago.

For pictures:

This guy is making its way over as of Saturday and I am very excited about it.  It's one of the things that I got with my birthday money last year and it's nearly all mine!  I'll be fully mine when I'm holding it.  Once I have the thing I'll post a picture of it, instead of this stock image from the site.

At the moment, I'm rocking a little side bag that is a bit small for the things I'm wanting to keep with the camera.  There's a tripod that I'm borrowing from my dad, a fisheye extension, wide angle extension, macro tubes, a flash, the stock 18-55mm lens, 75-300mm lens and (my personal favourite) my 50mm lens.  All things delicious.  I got a few little other bits, too - wireless flash feet (or something - remote flash triggers so I can take a picture of you but have the flash at the side.  Or behind. Or above.  The possibilities are nearly endless) and a GORILLAPOD!  I've been looking at the Gorillpod for a while and I'm very excited to get my hands on it.

There it is.  I think I'll pretend it's walking around like an alien more than I'll use it to take pictures with.  At least at first.

What I'm going to aim to do with this blog is merge it with my other blogs.  For one of them, it'll be as simple as copying and pasting the content gradually over until I've done it for every post.  For another I was thinking of keeping it separate, but I really don't know why. I think it's because of the blog title.  It's and I still think it's a good name, even if it's somewhat neglected as of late.  A fine example of that being the latest post - week four of a 30-week challenge...  Posted in March last year...

I'm looking forward to getting involved with the media team a bit more at church.  The head of the team was asking me to come in and see the goings on, so I'm stoked to do that.  I'm really enjoying photography casually and to be able to improve whilst still having it fairly laid back is something that I need.

And all my new equipment is going to make me a better photographer, right?  Right?!

I'm off.  Things to do, money to sort out, lunch to eat, etc.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's so close to being finished!

I've been playing with this for hours, now.  I really enjoyed it once I got going.  I was initially pretty scared to do anything at all beause I was sure I'd make an irreversible mistake and have to create a new blog completely.  But, as you can see, that didn't happen.

The next time I'm in - which is Friday - I'll be changing out the link images from the holder images I have at the moment to some more suited pictures.  I'll also be thinking about the links themselves and what I really need to reference (Uni, Photographs, Doodles, etc.).

Most importantly and most time-consumingly, I'm going to be going through my entire list of past posts - around 230 - and make sure the links down the side of my blog will take you to the posts that are relevant.  That's going to be the biggest task of Friday.

As you may see, I have the top 5 posts of all time listed to the right.  For some reason completely unknown to myself, the top three have 500+ views.  I have no idea why.  I thought I'd cheat my 2012 Review to the top by refreshing the page a bunch of times.  After refreshing it 20 times, I wanted to see how many times I'd have to do it to be effective...  I quickly gave up and resigned myself to the fact that my drawings from a figure class way back when have got the 'Charlie bit my finger' effect; that is, as the most viewed, they are at the top of the list.  And as they are at the top of the list, people will click on them to see what all the fuss is about.  Keeping them at the top of the list.

I don't mind.  I'm just really happy my blog looks different.


Tuesday the 15th of January.

Just to let you know, I'm redoing my blog at the moment.  Please excuse the layout as I play around and try to find what I want.  Thanks!


Friday, January 11, 2013

2013. Goals.

I figured I'd post this for two reasons - the first being that I think it's a nice way to follow a review of 2012, the second being I'm unoriginal and I've seen this done by a few other people I'm following/talking to.

Why not, eh?

My 13 goals for 2013.

1.  Read the Bible through.  I know it's a very common New Years' Resolution, but it's something that I've wanted to do for a while.  To be honest, there will be days that I don't get a lot from it - when you're trawling through Leviticus and Deuteronomy it can get somewhat dry, but I'm looking forward to finding those gems as I go.  It'll be worth reading about what we can and can't eat (or used to not be able to eat) and what to do when your older brother dies without having kids and you're the second oldest and unmarried just to come across those pieces of the puzzle that fit together centuries apart.  The little prophecies (foretelling) of the things the Jesus would be and do that were written a thousand years before He came to earth.  I'm looking forward to it.  That and the stories of the battles and wars in the Old Testament.  I could see myself wielding an axe, so it's fun to read about it.

2.  Print a photo.  I'd really like to take a photo that I feel I can print out on a canvas and have on our wall.  I have a few at the moment that I really like, but I'd like to really get into taking more photographs and using them - as opposed to simply storing them on the computer or carrying them round unused on an external hard drive.

3.  Travel.  I don't know where or when - my wifey and I have a few plans regarding what we're wanting to do in terms of travel this year, so we'll see where they lead to.  I've got a little travel project that I'm really wanting to get started, too.  Which will be nice.

4.  Make a book.  I've had a book idea for a while but it's been a case of money.  That's all I can really say about it at the moment.  Once I've got the money saved up for it, I've got a few people on board who are going to help with it, but for now it's the waiting game.

5.  This is a secret goal and will be shown upon its completion.

6.  Sing in church.  I love singing and I'm much more confident when I'm playing the bass and have a massive speaker behind me, but to be in the position where I can hear my own voice is daunting.  It's a great fear of mine that I sing out of tune and put people off around me.  I don't like being a distraction.  I know that sounds a bit up myself, but I don't want to be the reason someone feels the need to sing quietly.  I want to focus on God when I sing and not worry about anyone else and I want them to do the same.  It's an odd one.

7.  Pitch a game idea to a company.  I've got a few games that I've been working on and building up over the past few years and to be able to go to a company and pitch one of them would be wonderful.  I don't fully know how it works, but it'll be an experience.  And even if it gets shot down - as painful as it'd be to see my baby torn to bits - I'll learn from it, rethink the game idea and come on back.

8.  Get a job in the industry.  This is a harder one to think of because of other goals and situations.  I love my jobs.  Nando's is an amazing, fun, friendly place to work and there's not one of the 35/40 staff members that I don't get along well with.  Mountain Warehouse is also a fun, friendly place to work and full of the things that make me dream of going back to the States.  I regularly make a list of the things that I'd want for different situations in America.  It's harder to think of things for here, because there's not as much opportunity in terms of getting out and about.  In the States, you can camp pretty much anywhere you can pitch a tent and you can fish nearly any public water you can get to.  I'd make several bags full of differing equipment in my mental lists at Mountain Warehouse and create them for individual purposes.  From bug-out bags to a little day sack.  It's really good fun.  Really good fun that  I have off the clock, mind you.  To lose those jobs is a hard thought to have, but it's a sacrifice I'd happily make for a job in the games industry.

9.  I'd like to create something in a medium I don't use that much.  At the moment, all I can think of for this is pastels and paint, but that could be a 3D model or even a Warhammer figure.  Yea, I have those. Although I have an army's worth of figures, I work on them individually, so it takes a long time.  I love getting Greenstuff (a sculpting putty) and making little modifications to the little green men I collect.  At the rate I do it all, however, it's going to take about 6 months to complete my smallest unit of maybe 7 figures.  I don't mind, because I don't play, I just have the things for the purpose of modifying them.  It's pretty fun.

10.  This is a secret goal and will be shown upon its completion.

Thought I'd break up the word wall with a picture of a caterpillar.

11.  Redesign my blog.  I've been wanting to do this for a while and I've got a good friend who has a layout that I'm going to use.  I know it's won't be wholly original, but they'll be my tags, my photos, my ideas within the template.  I'm really looking forward to it and hope to get it done pretty soon.  I need to figure out what photos I'll be using for what tags I might create.

12.  Spoil my wifey.  We have differing lists of the things we're wanting.  I like the small things - the things that, really, don't mean a whole lot and I don't really need at all.  My wifey likes the practical things that we can use a lot and think about passing down to our kids.  That sort of stuff.  The unselfish things.  I want to spoil her this year with the things she wants.

13.  I'd like a conversation in Korean.  A couple of years ago when I was studying in the States, I had two Korean roommates.  Taek Ho Lee and Jongmin Park.  Really nice guys.  They'd have their friends round a lot and we'd sit in the living room and they'd teach me little bits of Korean.  It's always hard to learn a new language, but that difficulty is somewhat amplified when you're not using the Roman alphabet.  It's fantastic, but the areas of learning languages are highlighted - Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening.  Then there's the idea of Casual, Plain and Polite terms and words.  It's a challenge to learn everything at the same time.  To the point that I am looking a lot at the reading and writing and - to an extent - speaking.  I haven't found anyone yet to speak to and learn that way, so that's an aim I have for this year.

So there we have a few goals for this year.  These are by no means the only things I want to do this year, but they are a few things that I really want to push to do to better myself and learn a lot more.  I'll add a 14th:

14.  Read 5 books.  I'm not the best at reading.  I started a really good book once and didn't want it to end, so stopped reading.  Yea, I know it doesn't make sense.  I did finish a book last year, though.  Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller.  A fantastic book that does a great job at explaining the basics of Christian values and lifestyle in a very relaxed style of writing.  It's a really great read and I'd recommend it highly.  I'd lend it to you, had we not given out every copy we own.  Wisdom is a lady worth chasing and I intend to chase her in mind, body and soul.  In body by working out and maybe taking dance and fighting classes - to gain that knowledge of what I'm able to do.  My physical limits.  In soul by pushing forward in my faith and getting to know God more.  By listening to His voice and following what it it He's wanting us to do.  In mind by reading and trying to expand my knowledge of various aspects of life, science, nature, etc.  I have always held the opinion that you evangelise out of the heart in which you were saved.  That is to say when you see people on the street telling others how sinful they are and how they should repent right now and follow Christ; they do this because it's what caught their attention and found itself appealing to them; so it's the way that they naturally think works for everyone else.  Personally, my family have taught me God's love through their relationships and their kindness.  My dad has always been my role model in temperament, knowledge and - to an extent - wit; my mum has been my role model in her hospitality and warmth.  Both are creative and both show love for everyone.  In a roundabout way, that's why I want to gain knowledge and wisdom - so that in my relationships with people, I can show them Christ in a loving way and have an answer for things that they might want to ask.

I'd call that the more final list.  Once again, there'll be a lot more that I want to do but may not have thought of right now; some that I will have no idea about right now!  Either way, I'll let you know what they are when they crop up.

Have a great day.


Monday, January 7, 2013

2012: The Review.

I've never done any sort of review post before.  Not that I can remember, anyway.  A few people I follow and a few of my friends in general have done a '12 things of 2012' list.  It's nice because - should there have been a highlight a month - it's a fitting break down of a year.

So here's mine.  My top 12 things of 2012.  No particular order, because they're all great things.

1.  God.  I had a wonderful time getting to know God more.  This one is in order.  He's the most important person in my life.

This was a big event that really made my wifey and I move on in our faith.  Genesis Conference 2012.  Here's a picture I took during one of the worship sessions.  It was incredible being a part of something so big and so collective.  So one.

And this guy.  Man.  Josh Mayo.  An incredible leader and a wonderful guy.  Passionate about God and passionate about people.  He and his family actually moved to Atlanta a few months after this event to start a church out there.  Thoroughly nice people and one of the most loving families I've met.  He was a big inspiration to us over the past year, along with Greg Cultra and Aaron Bettencourt.

2.  My wifey.  This year has been incredible for us.  We celebrated our second anniversary in June - a lovely mid-point between living in the States and moving back to the UK for a while.  While obviously not all of these pictures are of the last year, they're some of my favourites.

Snuggling after my graduation ceremony.

Fashion shoot in Allonby.  (But not really).

Christmas in Fayetteville.  We like the mistletoe.

And this was either after a huge Thanksgiving meal or a huge Christmas meal.  Either way, we were full and happy and wanting a nap.

We've grown together this year and I can't wait for what's going to come.  This year is promising to be an adventure and I'm so excited and blessed to be able to make this journey of life with my best friend.

3.  Herps.  Yea, I was going to say 'America' but I figured it'd be nice to break it down into a few things that I particularly enjoyed.  Herps is one such thing.  Herpetology is the study of reptiles and amphibians.  'Herps' for short, it encompasses snakes, turtles, lizards, salamanders, frogs and toads and alligators.  They're all great and it's a fantastic laugh going out to catch whatever you can.

A common snapping turtle.  Tiny thing.  One of three small turtles I found within a square metre.

A plain-bellied water snake.  Not poisonous, but not afraid to bite.  With teeth that are designed to catch and hold onto fish, so not the most pleasant bite.

The prairie racerunner.  A fast thing.  This is the first herp I caught, so I was pretty stoked.  Lovely colours, too.

A scale photo with the common snapper before.  The penny is on top of a smooth softshell turtle and at the bottom right there, there's a musk turtle.

This is the musk turtle.  My favourite turtle.

As far as frogs go, this is a nice one.  Not all that big, it's the cricket frog.

And maybe my favourite frog, the treefrog.  There were a few under the pool covers this year, but not as many as I've seen in the past.

The midland brown snake.  This is about full grown at a foot, give or take an inch.  It was a cool morning, so I was able to get a few good shots of this sluggish fellow.

4.  Fishing.  I fished as a child and - to an extent - as a teenager.  It got all too expensive, though and I gave it up over here in the UK.  In America, though, it's amazing.  It's phenomenal.  Licenses in Arkansas are $10.50 and you can get a ready-to-fish setup from the supermarket for about $20.  Then you can fish on any public water you can get to for the year.  None of this joining an association lark or paying for permission to fish on a puddle that no-one knows who owns.  Bleh.  I got into fly fishing and I love it.

Here's a little firefly ... fly.  It's what we caught most of the smaller fish on.

This is my favourite.  A big ol' moth looking fly.  It's got a nice weight to it, so for me it's easier to feel and cast out a fair way.

Melissa wasn't ever really interested in fishing up until this year.  Now she's pretty excited about it.

I'm also fairly excited but my face shows it as disappointment.

Sometimes I'll show my excitement.  I saw this bass take the big moth fly next to some reeds and could barely contain myself.  I wanted to pluck it out of the water right then and there, but I had to wait for the hook to set and the fish to tire.  Good fun.

After first being somewhat squeamish at the thought of even holding a fish, Melissa eventually gained enough confidence to put her mouth this close to one.  I went one better and kissed the fish.  Then Melissa didn't kiss me for a week.  So it didn't really work out that well for me.

5.  Guns.  I know, I know.  Americans and their guns, etc.  Truth is, as horrific as it is to hear of killings and shootings, you need to know that what isn't reported in the news every day is safe gun ownership, clay pigeon shooting, hunting for meat to feed your family, popping cans off a log by a river.  Only the bad things are ever really reported in the news, so it's not a surprise that all we think of the States is that the people there are all armed and dangerous.  They're mostly armed and far from dangerous.  My parallel is the student/knife observation.  Americans have guns.  We have knives.  Over here, we don't hear about a student going to a shop, buying a bread knife and using it sensibly to slice up some tiger bread from Tesco.  We hear about stabbings and knife-point muggings.  If the view of our entire population was that we were knife-branding yobs who aren't afraid to cut someone for any reason, that'd be somewhat unfair, no?

Melissa's dad took us down to a river a few miles out of town and we spent hours shooting cans and bottles that we found there.  We had a .22 rifle, 12-gauge shotgun and a 30-30 rifle, I think.  Wonderful stuff.  The .22 is accurate over a fair distance but loses a bit of punch.  The shotgun is powerful and spready.  The 30-30 kicked like a mule but wasn't the most accurate gun in the world.

Ah, Dr Schilling's firearms.  A good friend of mine likes guns and took me to his gun club's firing range for a day with this sniper rifle, a few handguns and a brilliant semi-automatic shotgun.  What a day.

My 105-yard quarter.  The Doctor and I enjoyed a great afternoon of fun little shooting games.  A close battle, too.  Great fun.

7.  The small things.  I got a macro extension for my camera for Christmas and absolutely love it.  I went after anything that was small.  Ants, flies, spiders, you name it.

The Black Widow.  A terrifying sight.  But not as terrifying as losing sight of one.  Good grief.

Even though there was ample distance between us for me to feel safe, I was still on edge taking these.  Mostly because I didn't know they were under the rocks I flipped until they were almost on my fingers.

This dragonfly stayed so perfectly still as I wriggled my way through the wet grass to get to it.  I got a load of shots and it was so much fun.

Flies are so frustrating to photograph.  It's always a joy when you get a half-decent shot.  I was a happy bunny after getting this one.

Weevils are nice and slow.  I like weevils.

This moth was on the porch frame for a couple of days.  I got a good number of shots.  Such detail in so small a space.  Awesome.

While they are constantly moving, I do like to try and get some good shots of ants.  They're so hard working.  The Bible talks about them a lot.

Another ant shot.  Here, they're milking aphids.  They tenderly touch the back of the aphid with their antennae and the aphids produce a drop of honeydew which the ant picks up and takes back to the nest.

I'm going to have to come back and update this post at a later date with my other 5 highlights.  They'll include drawing, photography, dolls, my work in public and something else that I'll have to think about before then.  It's taken me two hours to compose this post as it is now and I'm going to go and meet my wifey for lunch.

I'M BACK.  Here's the rest!

Maybe something I'll need to do this year coming up is make sure I have enough time to make one long blog post instead of a couple of smaller ones...

Continuing from yeaterday (but with a slightly limited reservoir of photos, seeing as I'm updating now from uni and not my laptop in McDonald's):

8. Drawing. As with every year, I draw a whole lot. I improve and I get frustrated; I learn things and I stop drawing other things. It's a living process. I had a few drawings that I was particularly pleased with. In no particular order (because for some reason I can only upload pictures that are already on my blog):

My ant-headed monkey. A frightful beast. Four hands, a prehensile tail and a set of mandibles that'll rip your face off.

Dogsword the Demolisher. A redrawing of a character by one of my favourite artists, 'Jouste' - Jesse Turner. Really good fun to draw and nice to colour in, too.

A drawing in the looser sense. A mural I did for my friend Dr Schilling. It was fun to draw and paint and have single, straight lines.

A character design for the game I was working on in my third year. Unnamed, I believe. The idea is that although he's lost an arm, he has a load of attachments that enable him to do anything he needs.

A price chart that I came up with for my dolls.

Another character for my third year game. A shieldsmith. This guy helps out the main characters by forging shields for them. His four arms make him a lot quicker than the other, two-armed shieldsmiths.

And another character for my third year game. A fourth playable character, along with Qa'al, Tymm and Phyll. This guy is a hunter and a trap setter, relying on the stealth of his machines and his absence to catch and/or kill the creatures he is out to get.

The Grimions are the cannon fodder enemies - the innumerable, foot-tying critters that give you very little points for killing but are killed easily to make up for that. I came up last year with two more attachments for the Grimions - a big spike and a spine/spore shooter. The bigger one on the left is a King Grimion - larger than the usual Grimions and a little tougher to kill. They are generally armed a bit better, too and can attack from range and up close; whereas the normal Grimions tend to be able to do one or the other.

And another character for my third year game. My third year game is called Farmerarmageddon, so that's what I'll call it from hereon out. This character is a trainer. If there's a task you're required to do which needs a specific creature to help you achieve it, more often than not you'll have to find and catch that creature and then take it to this guy who can train it up to do whatever it is you need it to do. For a price. Usually that price is an item found at the end of a mission that this guy will set for you to complete.

My day at work/What I Wore Today. A while ago, I chronicled my clothing for a week. I really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd do it again here. I'm going to go ahead and say that I'll try and do another week again sometime soon.

My Monkey Janitor. He sweeps up messy corridoors during the day and fights crime with his monkey fighting skills every other night (he alternates between fighting crime and sleeping).

The yellow Angry Bird. The one that's good against wood.

A quickly doodled gladiator.

A drawing of me from a dream I had. It was pretty trippy and I still remember most of it. My wifey couldn't wrap her head around the idea when I showed her. I dreamt the dream in first person - as if it we me walking round and interacting with everything. Yet when I came to explain it to her I drew the dream map from a birds' eye view. I thought nothing of it. I think it's that spatial awareness and ability to mentally rotate 3D objects while keeping them (fairly) sound and unchanged. Guys find this easier to do than girls. It's to do with the space between our brain hemispheres.

The Rabbitfrogsquirrel. An unusual creature that feeds on insects, nuts and berries. Quick, good at swimming and better at climbing, it's a rarity that one would catch the beast. I could only draw this from a grainy, long-distance shot of the thing. Were I to even breathe heavily, it'd have scarpered.

9. Photography. I got given a wonderful camera just before Christmas in 2011 and I got a few extensions for the camera that Christmas; so I could say the highlight started in 2011 and grew all year. Here are some of my favourite photos - big and small:

The first photo I posted in 2012. A sunset over a very still (probably frozen) lake on the way home from Fort Smith.

A shot that took a long time to get right. A bird in a holly bush.

I can't remember taking this one, but I know that it's of the sun and a tree.

The Arkansas river runs between Arkansas and Oklahoma. On this river are pelicans and herons. Here is the latter. It stayed there for a while and I got a lot of nice shots; this one's my favourite.

Another sunset picture.

The inside of a dandelion. Another shot that took a while to get. This is when I was learning that my ISO has to be way down when I'm shooting something this close. A fact that I forgot every now and then - much to my frustration. I'd take a load of pictures and once the subject had gone, I'd look back and see that all I had from the shoot was two dozen white screens.

With one of the extention tubes on my camera, I simply put this leaf on the lens and aimed towards the sun. Lovely detail.

Unfortunately, this nest had been abandoned for some time, so the eggs here are most likely dead. There was just something so serene about the whole nest. Something so expectant.

The American toad.

I loved this shot. Another shot that was one of a load, but so, so much fun to get. It was pitch black - a lovely perk of living in the middle of nowhere. You can hear the crickets and frogs and see the stars and the Milky Way. Things you can't really do in a town or city. This toad was down in the corner of the garage. I shone a light on it to focus the camera, switched the light off, opened the shutter for 15-30 seconds and flashed the light on the toad from several different angles. The result was a fantastic light painting of this guy.

In Ohio, we went to a park that has been flooded. I liked the fact that this duck was making use of the bench when 1. he didn't need to because he can float and 2. we couldn't use the bench.

Back home in the garden I found the common frog. A lovely welcome back gift after not seeing one for years (because we'd been in America for a year and I can't remember the last time I went looking for one before that).

And a spider. It's nice to know that none of the spiders here will kill you for looking at them funny. A feeling that I can only wish Americans could feel.

10. Dolls. With making dolls, I'll also add other creations to the list. It's been a year of experimenting with ideas and materials that I've really enjoyed:

This is the lastest incarnation of me. As a doll. As a doll I have four arms and an odd skin tone. I'm well cool, though.

A couple of dolls I made for a creative display at church.

My Household Explorer. One of my favourite creations last year. Armed with a pin sword and strips of fabric to keep him warm, he adventures about the house when all are asleep. He can't do anything practical, like mend shoes or fix a gutter. That's for the bigger and more handy imps and gremlins. No; this guy fends off beetles and roaches and the occasional mouse.

I decided to learn origami using dollar bills. Origami is a bit of a novelty; as is the US currnecy. Ha. It started to look like normal money but then we moved back to the UK and I was slapped out of my delusion.

A doll with a tassled hat that I made for my Grandma. It sits next to her TV now.

I experimented with a two-tone design and loved it. This was the design that I did a number of dolls with. Uniform colour, with the under arms and inside legs a different colour.

The same doll sitting on the bookshelf of the guy I made it for.

A doll that I made a while ago. It's with a few others, now. I hear it's enjoying life.

The idea behind this doll was that I thought it'd be great to have a Dungeons and Dragons game created with dolls. I haven't played D&D, so this may or may not work. This guy was an ork. The regular players would have a regular-sized doll and would, at some point, encounter this ork and have to fight it. I scaled the templates up and made it nice and big. I actually went on to scale the templates up again after this and made my third size category. My dolls are now available in Regular, Large and Literal Baby-size.

The same doll on my table. I tried light painting again and I'm very happy with the result.

And a doll that I made for one of my best friends. A rabbit with four arms. Standard.

11. My work in the Public Eye. A few things I've done have been used in a way that makes then viewable by the public and that makes me feel warm inside. Not so much a pride thing to know that everyone can see what I've done, but that what I've done has been seen as good enough for someone to want to use it to represent an idea of theirs.

I only found this by chance. I'd jumped onto UCLan's Games Design site to see what work was there from the year before - what the third years and Masters students were working on. To my surprise and delight, I saw Qa'al jumping up at the side of the banner!

I'd drawn a big series of images of a house in various states of disrepair. The idea was that the series of photos of the house going from fine to broken and destroyed got played in reverse; from destroyed to restored - the title of the series at church.

Finally for the images I have on here, there's the ticket for the Bachelors' degree show for 2012. I sold this doll to a friend the previous year and he had been asked to bring it back in so that they could take a good picture of it for the ticket. Made me very happy.

As well as these images, there have been a few more things. At the moment, the series we're on at church is called 'Listen up' and I was asked to create an image for that. The first one wasn't that suitable, but is going to be used later this year. The one that is being used is of an ear with an arrow pointing to it.

Also, my dad used a few of my photos as backgrounds to the lyrics of some worship songs at Christ Church back in Southport.

12. Travel. I think that this is a pretty good one. My wifey and I did a fair bit over the past year. Obviously starting in 2011 when we went over to the States, 2012 saw us take many forms of transport to get to a lot of different places. All of them were fun.

This was the way over in 2011. The Blue Lagoon in Iceland. Marvellous place. A stop off on the 96-hour journey from Preston to Lavaca. That trip alone was worth documenting - which I think I may have done when I got the chance. Preston to London to Reykjavic to New York to Wisconsin to Kansas City to Lavaca. I'd do it all over again. But maybe without my own weight in luggage.

The AR/OK border. Pelicans chilling out. The first time I'd seen them in real life. I thought they were swans until one of them yawned and nearly swallowed everything in front of it.

This was a little lake that my wifey and I went camping by. We had some Tiki torches which were invaluable - keeping the mosquitos away the whole time. We caught a good few fish from this pond and had a wonderful night eating things we cooked with a camp fire and playing cards. In the morning, we were given this stunning sight of the mist rising off the water. It was beautiful.

A view of Fort Smith from a good distance away. Not the best picture, but one that holds a nice memory.

Cincinnati. We stopped off here on our way back home last year. The trip took us through Tennessee and Kentucky and (quite possibly) Mississippi before that; before coing to a stop in Cinci. There, we met a good friend, Rachel, and stayed with her about 20 minutes outside the city. After a week, we set off on our way back to England. We'd go through Pennsylvania before hitting up New York.

Just to reiterate our hitting up of the Empire State.

In Buffalo, NY, we went to the phenomenal Niagara Falls. We got on that little boat, too. Crazy stuff. The view was amazing, the experience, as a whole, is something that I just can't put into words. We saw incredible things. Even the rivers leading up to the falls were awesome, let alone the falls themselves.

After being there for a while, we went to Toronto, Canada. From there, we were to fly out back to Manchester and home again. Safe. It was a wonderful experience and one that we would love to do again and again. Albeit with less luggage.

So that's a highlight of 2012. It was a year that I can't quite describe. I need to learn new words in order to have enough of a descriptive vocabulary to chronicle any other sojourns. So learn I will.

The only thing left to do now is make a list of things that I want to in the coming year. Huzzah!