The Otaku Diet & a Community Garden

This topic has been on my mind for a while now and it was something I wanted to take time to write about and discuss because it may relate to you or someone you know. To give this some context, I was thinking of a way I could actually do a panel about it before Anime Detour in Minneapolis. I checked out a panel at Anime Detour by Kyle Hebert and another presenter about diet and the otaku lifestyle. These two things are closely related, we go to cons and live for 2 or 3 days on Pocky and Ramune, then we do this several times over the course of a summer. Every season we are given a plethora of new shows to watch and when some of are done with those we will game or stream random things online or venture into forums and spend hours there. In my case I spend my time animating so I am sitting in most cases working.

Let’s backtrack a little first. About 2 years ago my mom needed a stent put in for a clogged artery by her heart, which is in part to diabetes. She developed diabetes during her first pregnancy with my sister and it came back. After that I started paying more attention to what I was eating and lost about 25 pounds. Part of my solution was my community garden I had. I was able to plant several types of vegetables, which in turn helped with what I consuming. That’s why I also blog a little about gardening, it is necessary for me to keep up with my diet, which I prefer to call a lifestyle change.

I prefer to call it a lifestyle change because with diets you reach a goal and then you stop and you gain your weight back, which is what happened to me. For that reason, I am writing this for myself and for others who may need inspiration.

What worked for me was tracking my calorie intake, but also the types of calories. I avoided things with high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring and tried to eat more whole foods. With that routine it was a good way to operate because all you have to do is eat less than you burn (using about 2,000 calories for a male), and you will lose weight over the course of time. I thought I made the lifestyle change and stopped doing this process and as I slowly gained my weight back I thought I could gain control again but couldn’t. I learned from that mistake and it will not happen again.

All of this circles back to the community garden. Our city is fortunate enough to have the space for people to get gardens. The initial investment in fencing materials can be a little intimidating, but it is one thing I learned, is if you are unwilling to invest in yourself, no one will. The garden isn’t as easy as one may think. You can’t simply plant your plants and harvest it later. It requires work putting up the fence, weeding, and watering, but the work is worth it when you get to cook and enjoy all of the produce you grow. I have learned a lot about growing cycles, staggering plantings and canning. My favorite thing is learning how to maximize space by planting crops that have short growing seasons in between the plants that have longer cycles.

Every year I try to grow something I never grew before. Last year I grew a plant I can’t recall but it was a Japanese green. I learned how to make a few dishes that people used that plant for in Japan and how they cooked with it. The plant also grew insanely fast, we were cutting it constantly, which made it good to grow because we were able to get a lot for the space it occupied.

Here is to another year of urban gardening and working to get back down to weight.


Production Update 132: Catching up on Life

It was one of those weeks where I needed to catch up on some everyday things over the course of the week. Some unexpected turns sprung up but I have a solid game plan for the week ahead.

I had to get my car into the shop this week to prepare for my road trip to Akon in Dallas. After leaving the shop, there was an error in the service so my car needed to head back into the shop. Funny story, there was some work in the steering column and now when my car turns corners, it honks. So my car sounded a little like the road runner for a couple days.

There was also a break in the weather so we were able to get the rest of our planting done in our gardens. It was a lot of work since it has been so rainy here. We had to finish putting up our fencing to keep the animals out and we also planted a lot of plants and seeds.

Since my girlfriend and I do more gardening we also do some canning in the fall so we have things for winter. One thing we wanted to do was to get a cabinet for our canned goods for our new apartment. We spent part of the holiday weekend sanding down our cabinet and get some materials for finishing it up by mid summer.

I have a really special post planned for later this week so make sure to check back for that!

Three Biggest Things I Learned by Turning 30

This past weekend was my 30th birthday, something that seems like it would never happen when you are a child. It’s amazing how fast time goes by once you are done with school. So now seems like as good as time as ever to write a brief retrospective on some of the biggest things I feel I have learned over the course of my life so far.

Start Something
This one may sound easy but is often the hardest for people. I recall being in figure drawing classes in college and some students would be afraid to start drawing so my professor would walk over to there area and draw a mark on their paper. He would tell them “Now your paper isn’t perfect any more”.

In everything you do, you are not going to be an expert, you are not going to be perfect. The point of starting something is to get your work or idea out there and get feedback or validation of it to improve upon it. If you wait until everything is perfect before unveiling it, it will never get released. This is because as you work on it, you find more imperfections in your work and if you constantly go back and revise and revise, you can see the loop you fall into and you are shorting yourself the satisfaction of having something out in the world.

There is a saying “It’s only a mistake if you don’t learn from it”. You have to be able to see the positive in negative results. So go get your project started, go practice what you want to be good at, just start. Chances are, you will learn something even if things go south, which will leave you better prepared for your next venture!

Invest in Yourself… and Others
This is something I learned during the recession while I was reshaping my career path. At the time, I had spent all of my career doing sports animation, which I really enjoyed doing. Due to circumstances I couldn’t control, I had to shift gears a bit. During the time I did full-time freelance work, I decided to invest my own money into software and other things I wanted to learn to get better. I recall a time where I spent more money on a piece of software than what I was getting paid for a job.

I was looking long term and decided that this was a direction I wanted to go so I spent the extra money to get there. No one was going to pay for me to learn this piece of software, no one was going to buy the software for me. If you are unwilling to invest in yourself, others won’t invest in you.

While this is going to sound a bit contradictory considering the above statement, you need to invest in others. True story, when I was freelancing I was struggling to find a full-time studio position. I knew a full-time studio position is what I needed because I had a hard time turning off when I was freelancing. When I wasn’t animating I was networking and sending emails and reels out. I simply did not have the structure to have “off” hours. I had personal projects I wanted to work on and other things to do like travel.

I couldn’t get a studio to really give me a chance, granted this was still during the recession and budgets were cut and places were laying people off. I was able to find a small studio at the time and they took a chance on giving me a couple projects so we could see how each other worked. The studio and myself each invested in each other and the result is that we have been working together for almost 2 years now. Sometimes you have to give someone the chance to step up, they might surprise you.

Leave Things Better Than You Found Them
This phrase was plastered on the wall of the art studio I went to school in as a freshman. While I didn’t stay at the school, it was a phrase that applies to so much more than simply a room that students would sometimes leave a mess, it applies to everything.

The current job you have, will most likely not be your last. Where you live, the community you live in, might not be your last either. The planet we live on, the people we live with and interact with, should all be left better than you found them.

We have all worked with a person or perhaps were that person, who thought “When I leave, this place will fall apart”. How often does that actually happen? Almost never. The competitive society we live in somewhat promotes this mentality. The same goes for relationship break-ups, wanting to prove the other person was wrong and they can’t do better.

Instead of these mentalities, we should be helping each other succeed and setting people up to succeed through our movements in life.

What things have you learned in your life so far that you want to share?


Production Update 131: Halfway There

I really love writing these updates, I think that has to do with the fact the I love reading and seeing behind-the-scenes work on animation. I recently picked up a few anime series almost specifically for the behind-the-scenes content, like Blood the Last Vampire and Samurai 7.

This past week we started a new event at our local anime club. Several of us went out on Thursday night to hang out and all work on personal projects. It was a good time and turned out to be a productive night. I think it is something that we are going to keep trying to do on a somewhat regular basis.

The scene I am working on consists of 6 shots, I currently have 2 done and have been working on getting the other four framed up and rendered out. I have 2 scenes ready to be composited. One of them I left my computer render over the weekend as I did some work around the garden and the apartment. The other two shots I have the backgrounds framed up, just need to do a final render on them. Depending on render times, I should be able to get things wrapped up for next week.

I had one issue this week. I rendered out a scene and didn’t have the anti-aliasing set high enough so the render was a little poor in quality, which is why I re-rendered it over the weekend.

Production Update 130: New Scene Production Begins

Production update once again and things are back in order after the slight issue with production last week. The shot I was working on was finished up after another slight production modification as well.

The current scene I am working on has 4 more shots in it. I found out last week when I was starting to prepare the shots, I forgot to actually color and shade the character artwork for the scenes, so I spent the night doing that and also coloring a piece for the dialogue scenes for the e-book. I also got cameras positioned in the scenes so I can start setting up test renders this week. I am hoping I can actually finish up all 4 shots this week.

I also received the first draft of the previous scene I completed with audio work. We have some revisions to make to the scene, so I hope I can get that back this upcoming week as well.

I think I can get these shots done because this past week we spent some time working in our gardens and getting the fences put up for the year. I will probably spend some more time in the gardens this weekend to finish up planting and to also get the netting up to keep the deer out.

Over the weekend I also spent most of Saturday fixing up a cabinet that we are going to add to our apartment. It’s a nice break to get away from the computer for a day and work with some physical materials.

Remaining Flexible in Production

I thought I would actually be writing more posts about this kind of subject, but to be honest production has been going pretty smooth. However, I ran into one of my first small changes I needed to make which is what I want to discuss.

As you may know, I complete all of the backgrounds in Cosmic Rage in a 3D animation program called Cinema 4D or C4D. Some of these renders can be slightly time consuming and others go by pretty quick. Lots of things go into effect when setting up these renders and also many things contribute to how long these renders take.

The current shot I am working on involves a 3D city view with a nice camera move to travel up close to a set of doors since the shot is setting up where the scene takes place. I spent some time this week putting together some test renders to get some of the texturing and lighting right.

During these tests, it isn’t uncommon to knock the settings down to get faster results. Once I was happy with the camera move I set up the final render. The final render time estimation was simply too long to wait, so I needed to lower the settings. I spent most of today letting my computer render while I was at work, but when I got home I felt that the quality of the render wasn’t good enough to keep the computer rendering to finish it. The reason for this is an effect called aliasing, which makes the image kinda flicker in areas and most noticeably in areas of high contrast. Given the grungy nature of the scene, it simply wasn’t acceptable.

As a way to compromise on quality and movement, I rendered out a larger image and will have to do a scale instead of having a camera move. This way I can get moving onto the next shot and not have to worry about the shot looking bad. Can’t wait to share more next week!

Production Update 129: Scene Complete!

I was finally able to get that pesky scene done. It felt like I have been working on tat scene for a long time. Lots of things sprung up during production on that specific scene. The scene has been sent off to get audio work done. Here is actually a screenshot of the final shot from that scene.


I also spent some time this week with some revisions to the freelance project I was working on. Have one last minor edit to wrap up and then it should be good to go.

I also traveled and visited some family over the weekend. It was good to see them and things have been somewhat stabilizing with my grandpa and his condition.

One pleasant surprise this week, was the notification we got that we would be able to get into our garden almost month earlier than last year! So we spent part of Sunday putting up the fence and getting some early crops planted.

Given all of that, I am starting to prepare things for the next scene. Just to give you an idea of the next scene, it is composed of 5 shots. I am aiming to get a good chunk of it wrapped up for the next production update. I am anticipating that 3 of the shots will need 3D background renderings that will be more than one frame so part of the progress will be focused on how fast things render.

I also have a few minor edits and tweaks to make in anticipation for Akon 26 in Dallas, TX.