MontanaRon

An English teacher's blog about his travels and his digital art.

Santo Domingo Digital Art

My latest piece of digital art is a street scene in Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic. But, the scene is not one you’ll actually be able to see if you go there. It’s a composite of three photos I took some years ago and put them together to create the scene. This is from a method by Cindy Charles, one of the artists in Kaizen, a digital art group I belong to. Here’s the final result (you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them a few times, but you’ll have to use your browsers back button to return to the post):

Here are the three original photos that make up the composite:

The first two originals are actually extractions from larger scenes and the obelisk is the original photo, from which I later extracted the monument.

The process I used, more or less, was to move the three extractions to a new canvas and move them around to my liking. Then I converted everything to black and white, and began painting in the colors of the buildings by hand. I put each color on its own separate layer so that I could control the opacity and other properties of each individual color. I put the layers and the relevant extraction in a group so I could move them around easily. I didn’t paint the obelisk in the far background and I didn’t paint the clothing for the people walking in the street.

I used a tropical color palette that I played around with in Adobe and used it to color in the buildings. After I finished, I discovered that I had painted in some colors that were very close to the original colors. But, that was OK. The painting took quite a while, but I enjoyed doing it, since it was the first time I had done this much hand painting. I used a soft round brush and the soft light blend mode for each color, and I painted with my Wacom tablet, which I hadn’t been using that much. Fun, really.

I added a few textures, a color lookup, a vignette and a few other things to complete the project. I discovered, though, that there are a seemingly infinite number of variations that can be made, so I may add a few of them to this page, soon, hopefully.

I had fun doing this piece, and thanks to Cindy Charles for the method. I know this one could probably be better, but I’m going to keep trying on other cityscapes and I’ll keep trying to improve this one, too. Enjoy.

My Now Page

If you look at the top menu, you’ll see a new page up there called Now. What is a Now page? The idea for it comes from Derek Sivers. The page lists things that I might be up to right at this point in my life, like what music I’m listening to, what books I’m reading, etc. “But, can’t you do that on social media?” you might ask. No, you can’t. Here’s how Sivers explains it on his about Now page:

What is a “now page”?

Most websites have a link that says “about”. It goes to a page that tells you something about the background of this person or business. For short, people just call it an “about page”.

Most websites have a link that says “contact”. It goes to a page that tells you how to contact this person or business. For short, people just call it a “contact page”.

So a website with a link that says “now” goes to a page that tells you what this person is focused on at this point in their life. For short, we call it a “now page”.

See examples by browsing nownownow.com.

Although it’s normal to make the web address “/now”, just like it’s usually “/about” and “/contact” in those other examples, the URL could be anything.

Don’t Twitter and Facebook updates do that?

No. If I wonder how someone is doing these days, it doesn’t help me to see that they went on vacation last week, are upset about something in the news, or even got a new job. That’s not the big picture.

Think of what you’d tell a friend you hadn’t seen in a year.

Like, “Still living in Dallas, though considering moving to Austin. Working at ABC. Really getting into cycling. The kids are age 3 and 6. I’m reading a lot of Pema Chödrön, and listening to a lot of jazz piano especially Brad Mehldau. I’ve stopped taking on web design clients, since I’d rather keep improving my back-end database work.”

That’s what a now page is for. You can’t get that big picture from any other outlets I’m aware of.

I’ll try to keep my Now page updated either every couple of weeks or perhaps only once a month, depending on what I’m up to. Check it out, if you want.

Stormy Weather!

Wow, we had a heckuva storm out my way yesterday afternoon. It started rolling in about 4 p.m, and I was thinking it would be nice to have a breeze and maybe a bit of rain. The clouds looked pretty benign, but the full force of the storm hit around 4:30 and it was anything but “nice.” I swear we had a mini-tornado. The winds were coming from all directions and they were extremely strong. The roof of my house was being lifted a few inches and dropped back down, more than once. The neighbors’ trees, large and strong, were being bent to about a 60 degree angle, debris was flying through the air, and the rain, only about 15 minutes worth, was fierce!

After it was over, about 30 minutes later, I took a walk around. Our house was OK, but the neighbor in front of us had part of his roof blown off, much of the roof of the karaoke across the road was destroyed, and a small pavilion in the rice field behind our house was torn up. Their was sheet metal all over the yard, and I don’t know where it came from. Plus, the power was knocked out for about 3 hours. This was a bad one, and had me a bit scared. Below is a photo of the pavilion and of the neighbor doing repairs to his roof. We’re supposed to get more storms again this afternoon. I certainly hope they’ll be nothing like yesterday’s.

Pavilion after storm

The pavilion behind my house after the storm yesterday.

Neighbor roof repair

My neighbor repairing part of his roof.

More Lockdown News

So, the lockdown will be eased quite a bit beginning tomorrow, and I reported in a previous post that Vientiane College would re-open on May 18th. However, the Lao government clarified the school opening guidelines. Universities, colleges and language schools (that’s us) won’t be able to resume classes until June 2nd, so that’s another month off, which, thanks to our fantastic administration, will be paid to us that are on contract. Nice! Thanks to all the folks involved in this decision. Now, let’s hope that the lifting of the lockdown won’t result in an outbreak of covid-19 infections. The government said that if there are outbreaks, then the provinces where they occur will be put back on lockdown. Fingers crossed.

P.S. For your info, bars, karaokes, movie theaters, gyms, and other similar types of venues will not be allowed to open yet. I’m not sure when that will happen. There’s a karaoke (open air) right across the road from my house, so their closure has been nice. I had gotten used to the noise, but it’s been closed since the end of March. I suppose I’ll have to get used to it all over again when it does reopen.

Lockdown Revisited

Many of the lockdown constraints in Laos will end this Monday, May 4th. I think many businesses will reopen, including restaurants, with certain provisions in place, including limitations on the number of people that can be in the business at any one time; masks, of course, will be mandatory. I don’t know about bars, karaokes or other types of entertainment venues. I imagine they might still be shut down.

Vientiane College plans on reopening May 11th for registration, with full time evening classes to begin on the 18th. A few daytime classes will also start the week of the eleventh. I have been far from bored during the lockdown; there have been so many things to keep me occupied around the house. Reading, digital art, morning jogs and catching up on movies and TV shows, among other things, have filled my time. Still, I’ll be happy to get back to work (not to mention earning some money!). Let’s just hope that there isn’t a resurgence in covid-19 cases after the reopening. More later.

Air Show

My latest piece of digital art, entitled “Air Show.” Just a bit of whimsy, with Glacier National Park as the background. The mountains, the lake, trees and sky are my photos and everything else is from Pixabay. I’ll probably pop back in here from time to time and post different versions of this, so check back if you want.

Air Show digital art

Having fun in Glacier National Park.

Lao in Lockdown

Laos has been locked down since April 1, meaning everyone should stay at home. Of course, people with essential jobs are still working, but most other businesses have been closed, as well as all the schools. Vientiane College, where I work, has been shut down since before April 1, so I’m having an extended vacation, so to speak. I still go jogging in the morning, which I consider essential, and that hasn’t been a problem with the authorities, though I’ve never seen any that early in the morning. I also see quite a number of bicyclists riding for exercise at that time, sometimes in packs of three or four, coming from the city or heading back that way. I’ve also been to one of the foreign markets to replenish my food reserves. I thought I might have a problem doing that because some districts of Vientiane have been blocking travel in and out of their area if you don’t live there. However, I didn’t see any roadblocks on my way to and from the market.

Yesterday, the government said that the lockdown was going to be extended from April 20th to May 3rd. At that time, schools and some businesses would be allowed to open. So, perhaps, Vientiane College might be able to re-open in time for the original start of our next trimester, May 7th. That, though, might be unlikely because I imagine that it might take another week to set up registration times for the students and to get the word out that we’ll open again and to get everything ready. I expect to hear from the administration soon about the school’s plans.

The Lao New Year holiday just finished. The government cancelled all planned activities and warned everyone that social distancing was in place (and the lockdown) for the holiday, meaning no celebrations outside our homes and no more than four people celebrating together, other than immediate family. We’ll probably know how this worked out near the end of the new lockdown date, around the end of April. Laos has had no new infections, that people know of, for about three or four days now (19, as of this posting), but if covid cases start increasing as the month goes on, well, the warning to not celebrate probably didn’t have much effect.

The government also banned alcohol sales and distribution from April 13th to the 20th. The only effect that might have is that when the small mom-and-pop markets run out of beer, they won’t be able to get any more. Also, mini-marts, liquor stores and others won’t be able to sell alcohol. While jogging today, I noticed one of the small markets still had many cases of canned beer left and I would guess it is selling to people who want to buy, which would be quite a large number of people. Lao folks love their alcohol, especially during holidays. (P.S. I stocked up when I heard about the ban, though I don’t drink a whole lot. I still have some BeerLao left–come over to the house and we’ll tip a few!)

Venus Pleiades Update

I thought I’d take a gander at the Venus-Pleiades conjunction the next night (Apr. 4) and the viewing was a little bit better than on the 3rd. Venus was sitting above the Pleiades and I could make out the two fainter stars, one just to the right of the star immediately below Venus and the other between the bottom two stars in Pleiades. I couldn’t see these on the third. The air seems very clear today, so I’ll take another look this evening. Again, here’s last night’s rendition from the Stellarium software.

Venus Conjunction With Pleiades

There was a nice astronomical conjunction last night, April 3, after sunset. Venus sat right next to the Pleiades star cluster in the constellation Taurus, the Bull. We had clear skies, meaning no clouds, but the pollution these days from brushfires nearby and from farmers burning the stubble off their fields in preparation for monsoon season planting, makes sky viewing very difficult. I could see the event OK, but the spectacle was dimmed quite a bit due to the pollution.

When I’m looking at the skies through my binoculars, I sometimes think how nice it would be to have a telescope again, but then I come to my senses and realize that having one here would be a lost cause, so to speak. About the only time of year that the skies are transparent are in December and January. Every other time the viewing is ruined by air pollution or monsoon season clouds. Anything that might be low on the horizon would be washed out by the lights from Vientiane to the west, though higher up objects are viewable. That’s about the only direction viewable to me from the house because I’m surrounded by trees or bright street lights ruin the view. Anyway, here’s a decent semblance of what I saw last night as captured from my Stellarium planetarium software (it’s open source and free–give it a try).

Covid in Laos

There hadn’t been any confirmed cases of covid-19 infection in Laos up until about a week ago when a couple of people were found to have the virus. Since then, six more people have been infected, and all of them are related, in some way, to the first two cases. Just about everything has shut down, though, including bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues. Even the two “mom-and-pop” restaurants in front of my house have closed. And, most amazing, the karaoke just across the road has shut down. Ahh, peace and quiet in the evening for a while, unless the neighbors decide to crank up their music, which they did last night. Luckily, I’m pretty well stocked up on food, so I’m staying at home, except to go jogging in the morning and maybe take a bit of a walk in the evening after the day’s heat has gone down a bit. (Lately, it’s been around 100 and will be for about the next three days.) To the heat and the virus, add in the horrendous air quality of late (> 150), and Laos is not the most pleasant place to be right now.

Vientiane College shut down, along with all other schools, a couple of weeks ago, so I’m on extended vacation at the moment (paid, thankfully). Our next term was supposed to start on May 7th, but that increasingly looks unlikely. Hopefully we won’t be out of commission for too much longer after that. So, I’m just sitting at home, watching movies and TV shows, doing a bit of digital art, playing online games (Lord of the Rings, Eve Online), reading and drinking beer. What’s a guy to do? We’ll get through this, but it could turn out to be rather boring after a while.

Oh, one other thing is that in the middle of April is arguably the biggest holiday of the year in Laos, the Lao New Year (Pee Mai Lao), but, because of the virus, the government has cancelled all of its holiday events and advised people not to gather in large groups for celebrations (this includes weddings and birthday parties). I’m really curious to see how many people follow through with that. I suppose there will be at least a small party out on the farm where Nai’s sister lives and where I used to live. I’ll go out there for one day (out of the three that comprise the holiday) and be sure to social distance myself from the others. How much they’ll do the same, I don’t know. If things get out of hand, I’ll boogie on out of there and go back to my house.

So, in finishing, I hope everyone stays healthy and safe. Catch up on your reading or gardening or whatever and wait it out. More later.

« Older posts

© 2020 MontanaRon

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑