An Open Letter To Santa - 2017

Dear Santa,

Where do I begin?  I guess I could just start off with the normal formalities like I always do...  How are you?  How is the missus?  Do you have a good break over the spring or did you have to start early this year?  I hope all is well up north, because I'm sure you've heard about all the crazy things going on down here below the Arctic Circle.

I feel like Billy Joel needs to come out with a sequel to one of his hit songs and title it, "We Didn't Start the Inferno", but have the lyrics reference everything that has happened in 2017.  Between Twitter wars, fake news, famine, folly, foibles, forest fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, harassment, scandals, and ongoing war... well, we haven't seemed to feel the adage of "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men."  In spite of all of that, however, I am sure you know that we're all doing much better here at the Reynolds home.  Here is a bit of what has happened over the past year:

Our new sactional

We've been loving our new townhome over the past year.  It's amazing what a change of venue will do for your sanity.  I wish everyone could have their own piece of quiet to call home.  It's perfectly situated where I have a 5 minute commute to work, 2 minute drive to the grocery store, 10 minutes from church, and 5 minutes from the interstate.  In addition, the kids can ride the bus to school, which is awesome because we don't have to drive them there every day.  We've slowly been trying to make this place our own, which is nice to finally be able to do.

One of the houses I cleaned out

I'm sure you're meteorological elves have been monitoring the situation here over the past year, and let me tell you... it was a doozy.  We have been fairly fortunate living near the Gulf of Mexico that we haven't seen any hurricanes... until this year.  Well, by the time Harvey got to us, it was a tropical storm, but it was still pretty devastating, to say the least.  It's been estimated that 9 trillion gallons of water was dumped on the greater Houston area.  And let me tell you, we felt it.  It was very disconcerting for the most part, mainly because it was almost a week of incessant rain.  However, our little home fared very well with no significant damage.  (All that was happened to us was a wet spot on the ceiling of our bedroom and having one of the flood lights on the garage stop working.)   We were fortunate enough to be able to take in some friends from church whose apartment was evacuated due to the ground level being covered by 3 feet of water.

I can tell you that, in spite of all this, I was proud of the response of my fellow Houstonians.  Whereas the situation could have devolved into something akin to the movie "Water World", instead I saw an entire city of millions band together to help out everyone that needed it.  It was truly amazing to see the efforts that were put forward to try and get everyone back to normal.  I spent a few weekends mucking out houses, which was hard, dirty, and sometimes depressing work.  We're going to be having a much more comfortable Christmas than some people this year.  However, I am grateful that we've been able to help out where we can.

One year older and one less tooth

Well, let my tell you about what has been going on with the family.  Our oldest, Leah, started Kindergarten this year.  I never thought that day would come, but it finally has.  And, boy, has she taken to all her subjects in school.  Thanks to the loving influence of her Mother's book obsession, Leah has accelerated in her ability to read and write.  She keeps surprising us every day with the new things she has learned or observed.  She still loves to draw and do all sorts of crafty things.  On top of all that, she has a big heart and is often the most helpful around the house.  All in all, she's our tender-hearted caring girl.

Seriously, anything he can climb on...

Next we have Sean... We refer to him as our monkey, and for good reason.  If he's not climbing on the furniture, he's climbing all over you.  He has an endless supply of energy and often wears us out every day.  It's like he's on full throttle from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to sleep.  There is no down time with him, just like a lot of other little boys, I'm sure.  He's a real goofball and always wants to have fun... which can be a bit of a problem when it comes time to do work.  He's in his second year of pre-school at the local elementary school and has been doing well.  He mainly loves to just be friends with everyone he meets.  He still loves all things trains, boats, LEGOs and computers.

Lucy and Philly, one of the dogs we occasionally borrow

Our youngest, Lucy, is a silly little cutie pie.  Her nickname is "Goose", mainly because we liked calling her "Lucy Goose" when she was younger.  (It's also so I can say to her "Talk to me, Goose" and feel like Maverick from Top Gun.)  She is an observant little girl that has picked up really quickly on all the things that her older siblings do.  One of the most surprising things that I've been adapting to is her ability to clearly communicate what she wants.  The first two kids had a bit of a problem with that, but not Lucy.  She knows what she wants and will clearly let you know if you don't have it correct.  That being said, she's a funny mix of personality between her brother and sister, which can either drive us crazy or melt our hearts.

Time out at Fish Lake

Sarah has taken a little time off this year from selling books in order to focus on the needs of the kids, which they appreciate.  She has helped out quite a bit at their school and is the official "Critter Getter" for the Pre-K classes (she gets to transport animals from one of the other middle schools in the area back to the elementary school so the kids can enjoy that animal for the week).  In addition to all of this, she is always one of the first to volunteer to help those in need.  Her kind and thoughtful heart is something that I have always admired about her.

Me and the James Webb Space Telescope

As for me, I'm still getting deep into nerd-dom both at home and at work.  The work with NASA goes in waves where one day I can be struggling for breath and the next I am really reaching to find productive work.  Thankfully, we have been recognized for our work both from our customers and from our company management, and we feel that we have a good place here on the teams we are working with.  I still have to pinch myself some days and realize that I work at a pretty cool place.  (The other day I got to see the James Webb Space Telescope... the one that is going to replace the Hubble... And I work down the hall from Joe Engle, who is a very nice man and refuses to retire from NASA).  Additionally, I've been getting into virtual reality development, which unlocks a lot of potential for me.  It's really fun to imagine, design, and build a world... and then step into that world.  We've hosted a few VR parties at our house and pretty much everyone I've introduced to VR has had a lot of fun with it.

Gonna need a new wardrobe

This year brought some changes for me, health-wise, where I started a nutritional plan along with Sarah and subsequently lost 90 pounds.  (The stress of the hurricane helped me gain some back, but I'll lose it again... starting in January).  I purposely didn't post any pictures of myself on social media the entire time, mainly because I wanted to surprise my extended family when I saw them at a family reunion this summer.  I had to get an entire new wardrobe, but it was worth it.

In truth, Santa, I have no outstanding needs that I wanted to request of you.  I mean, sure, everyone would like more money and time, but I really have everything I need.  All I would be asking of you are a few superfluous wants.  I guess, after cleaning out the muddy, moldy, stained memories of people's lives from the aftermath of a tropical storm, my attitude on what was necessary changed a bit.  Some people I got to help out lost all their worldly possessions. But thankfully, none of them lost their lives.  I've been very blessed and I recognize that.  I have a good family that loves me, a number of great friends, and the ability to provide for our basic needs.  I couldn't really ask for more this year.

Anyway, feel free to stop by our house anyway this year.  I know the kids are really looking forward to your visit.  I'm still trying to teach them about how it is better to give than receive at Christmas, but they're still little.  Maybe one of these years they'll get it.

Thanks again for all the good you do, Santa.  I hope people can look at you and be inspired to take a little time to be selfless in their lives.


Brad Reynolds

P.S. Seriously, though, I've been asking you for years for that Jaeger fighting robot?  You going to bring that or what?


An Open Letter to Santa - 2016

Dear Santa,

Greetings again after another year.  I'm sorry we don't keep in touch more.  I guess we both get busy doing our own things during the rest of the year, so that's no surprise.  How have the elves been this year?  Did your reindeer get enough training over the off-season?  I hope the weather currents aren't too harsh for your yuletide present run this year.

We've been doing a bit better this year in the Reynolds family.  We survived another hurricane season without any unfortunate mishaps here in Houston.  Thankfully we have also been able to improve out living conditions quite a bit this year after purchasing a townhome just down the road from where we had been living for the past four years.  I can tell you going from 1400 square feet to 2200 square feet makes a big difference.  Now my children actually have room to run indoors, I have an attic to store boxes, my wife can entertain guests, and I have a bathtub I can actually fit in.  Oh, and now I can grill.  And I grill a lot.  We thankfully moved down the road and it was relatively simple to pull off.  We also were able to keep our kids in the same school boundaries and can still attend the same church congregation we've been with since we moved to Texas.  It has been a real blessing.

I'm still gainfully employed at NASA's Johnson Space Center, working on future concepts of human spaceflight missions.  I've also started getting back into doing industrial design work on occasion, which is a welcome change from my normal day-to-day tasks.  I never seem to have enough time to do the creative things I want and I keep hoping something will change to get me enough mental energy at night to finish the dozens of projects I have dreamed up.  Maybe 2017 will be different.

My wife, Sarah, has had an up and down year, as I'm sure you've heard.  After giving birth last year, she sustained an injury in her back that wouldn't go away without surgery.  We were all a bit nervous going into it, but it seems as if the problem has been relatively resolved.  (Don't get me started on all the mess we had to sort out trying to get the doctor's office and insurance company to actually give each other the right information...)  Thankfully she has had a good challenge this year by becoming an independent sales consultant with Usborne Books.  She has filled our home with good books for our kids to read and made a difference in the lives of some of the families she has introduced the books to.  I'm glad she has found something that she can do from home while the kids still need her.  She's been working hard to get going and I'm proud to see her passionate about something.

My oldest, Leah, just turned five this past month.  I can't believe she's been a part of our family for five years.  She continually surprises me with how grown up she is getting.  She is now old enough to be a help instead of a hinderance and I'm grateful for the many times when she realizes the joy of helping out others.  The other night she cleaned up all the toys without being asked, just because she wanted to do something nice.  She's becoming quite the artist and loves to draw, color, paint, and play with play dough.  I see a lot of myself in her and I love it when we get to do the occasional daddy-daughter dates.

My son, Sean, is a boy.  A three year old boy.  And he has more energy than I think I'll ever have again.  I don't seem to be able to match the level of activity he seems to constantly be at.  I often say that he's got 100% of his mom's genes in him, which isn't bad, but I'm constantly having to learn things about him and how he functions, sort of the opposite of the way I am with Leah.  However, he's got a cheery attitude most of the time (even if it is coupled with a three-year old's sass 75% of the time) and is a friend to everyone.  Honestly, if you're not a scary monster, you're automatically his friend.  He's got a tender heart and even asks for nice things to happen to cartoon characters when he says his prayers at night.  It's adorable.

Lucy, my youngest, has been both a blessing and a curse to me this year.  Don't get me wrong, I think she's the cutest baby ever.  However, for the first year of her life I have been the one to get up in the middle of the night to take care of her, sometimes multiple times in the same night.  My mental health hasn't been that great as a result of it all and I've been exhausted for quite some time.  Thankfully she started sleeping through the night a bit more once we moved into our new home.  Aside from that, she's a pre-toddler that's just happy to be here.  She always gives us smiles, blows us kisses, and will come plop on you to give you a good hug.  She's definitely the cuddliest baby I've had, which makes up for all the times she transformed into a banshee-esque night demon.

I'm sure your elf intelligence network has already informed you that we mortals here down south have had a bit of a rough year during 2016.  The country I live in, particularly, has had less than Christmas-level feelings spread around this past year due to the political climate.  The recent presidential election brought out mediocre candidates and bad mojo all around.  It frankly got exhausting seeing each individual political ideology vilify anyone that deviated from their way of thinking.  As we headed into the holiday season, I don't think that feeling really got left behind.

Don't get me started on all the negative things that I hear about in the news.  Between the domestic violence in my nation to the civil unrest I read about abroad, it's been a bit hard to keep the light of hope shining in our hearts.  I think people are feeling a lot of darkness in their hearts right now, either due to circumstances or just hidden hurts.  I honestly don't think that presents are going to solve that problem, so maybe you have something else in that sack of yours that might help.

Usually in letters that people send you, they have a list of things that they'd like for Christmas.  I honestly can't say that I want anything.  I'm just excited to see my kids open their presents on Christmas morning, or to have my wife be surprised at the gift I got her (she's never going to guess it!).  I haven't given a single thought to what it is I want.  I guess that is something that just comes with getting older.  I'm not saying that I'm a selfless human being, by any means.  I mean, I'd love to have some new toys to play with or go on some fancy trips with the family, but the truth is that I really don't have time to play anymore.  All of the things I need aren't something you can put in your sack: more sleep at night, more self-confidence, more hours in the day (unless you've got a TARDIS... which I might be able to use). 

In the end, I think maybe just a little more hope is something I could use.  I haven't had a real vision for the past few years of what I wanted my life to be.  It's lead me to become a bit aimless, taking things one day at a time, trying to soak in whatever scraps of inspiration I can find.  I'm not totally lost right now, just a little dazed and confused.  Probably a lot of people are feeling that way.  If there's any way you could trade a few iPhone 7s in the world for some positivity, it would be appreciated by many more beyond myself.

So anyway, Santa, I hope your trip this Christmas Eve goes according to plan.  We'll leave out a plate of cookies for you.  Feel free to eat any leftovers in the fridge.  I know you need the calories to stay warm.  Most of all, have a Merry Christmas!


-Brad Reynolds.

P.S. If you really, really need to put something under the tree for me this year, here are a few things that I think would be really great: a Gibson ES-355; components for a high-end PC graphics workstation; an all-expense paid trip for the family to go to Disneyworld for a week; lifetime maintenance for any vehicle we own; free tickets to visit family out west; a 60-inch smart television with soundbar; Google Fiber; no more Micheal Bay Transformer movies; and a never-ending block of Parmesan cheese that has great flavor with zero calories.

P.P.S. I know those are all tall orders, so if you don't have room under the tree for them, no worries.  We've already been blessed with way more than we deserve.


Dear Santa: My Annual Open Christmas Letter

Dear Santa,

I can't believe it's been almost a year since the last Christmas.  How have you been in the meantime?  How is the missus?  I'd say you've been very busy this year with all the Star Wars merchandise that I've seen floating around.  Hopefully there are enough people still on the nice list to make use of them all.

So if you remember, last year we had to celebrate Chinese Christmas in February since we were out of town when the regular December Christmas celebration was happening.  This year, you can plan on a normal Christmas delivery to our home because we'll be staying home.  While I like the idea of spending the holidays with family, the reality of making that happen is significantly harder with three kids four and under.  I'm hoping for some quiet enjoyable time together this holiday season with just my wife and kids.  In fact, this is the first time I'll be taking off work during the holidays and not traveling, so I hope it is enjoyable as I am hoping it will be.

I have to admit, this past year was a bit of a doozy for my greater family as a whole.  2015 is not going down as one of my most favorite years.  It definitely didn't turn out to be anything like what we were promised in "Back to the Future."  Sure there are "hoverboards," but even those are causing more battery-exploding accidents than good.  This year my greater family has experienced multiple illnesses, including at least three ambulance rides and a number of hospital visits (some with multi-night stays).  We've seen hardship for our nieces an nephews.  We've seen unemployment and underemployment strike our family.  Overall, I'd say it was a net bad year.  If you zoom out, a level, there are a number of crises going on in the world that we all wish weren't there.

However, I don't want to dwell on the negative things going on.  Let me tell you about the blessings we have had.

First off, we were able to have a wonderful vacation this past summer in Destin, Florida.  We were happy to discover that place a few years ago and wanted to experience it again.  We were lucky to have my parents come out and stay with us.  Not only was it a fun time, but I was able to watch my children interact with their grandparents and reap the blessings of knowing them.  My parents are two of the greatest human beings I have ever had the pleasure to deal with and it is my hope that my children can grow up remembering them.

Secondly, my daughter Leah has been blessed to finally get into a pre-K class where she has had a wonderful teacher to help her along with some of her developmental problems.  The latest report was that she was doing great academically and might move out of the special education class and into the regular class.  It has been such a nice change to actually hear her communicate things to me, even if I can't clearly recognize all the words.  (Now, let's hope we can get potty-training down...)

Thirdly, my little Sean isn't so little anymore.  He's a cute, conniving little two-year-old with a pretty big heart.  He isn't shy about playing with anyone or going off to explore the world.  Unfortunately, that also translates into him not realizing the dangers that could face him.  I am constantly trying to make sure he doesn't kill himself or break something valuable, and that continually wears thin on me.  However, he can be pretty fun and he has such imagination.

Fourthly, my little Lucy Mae came to us miraculously about a month and a half ago.  We had been anticipating her arrival into our lives for quite some time.  However, when it got close to her delivery date, we discovered that she wasn't in the right position and floated between breach and transverse the last week.  Even after the doctor tried a painful procedure to try and get her into position, the little girl just wouldn't get to the right spot.  The only way we were going to get her out was through a c-section.  After lots of prayers by ourselves and our family, we went into the hospital and got all ready for the procedure to happen.  We said one last prayer before we were about to go into the operating room and put our fate in the hands of the Lord.  The doctor promised to do one last ultrasound before we went in, and we heard her exclaim, "Am I seeing this right?"  Lucy had moved head-down into the correct position, sometime right before.  We were all overwrought with emotions of gratitude as we learned we were going to have a normal delivery.  About twelve hours later, we were holding our little girl.  Although she isn't smiling at us yet, she has been such a wonderful blessing to have in our family.

Finally, I have been blessed with a wonderful wife who has a lot of faith in me.  She gives me much more credit than I deserve.  This past summer we left the kids with a friend for the weekend and took a trip to San Antonio to celebrate our birthdays.  It was one of the nicest trips I've been able to have.  You see, Sarah and I never really had much time get to be just "us" at the beginning of our marriage.  When we got married, we immediately focused on having kids.  Out of the five years we have been married, she has been pregnant half of the time.  With all that focus on family, it has made it much harder to learn to be a married couple.  So having just a little bit of time to focus on just us was such a wonderful experience.  I wish we had more opportunities to do just that.

So, as you see, Santa, I've already got pretty much all I want, and it's not even Christmas.  Sure, I'd love to build a new PC or live in a bigger place.  But I don't know if anything will ever compare to the blessings I've listed above.  I think this year I finally understood the real meaning of Christmas.  I was brought pretty low this year.  I'm sure I didn't handle everything with the right amount of patience and longsuffering.  I'm sure I made lots of mistakes.  However, I realized that there was a way to be forgiven of all my misdeeds, mistakes, and weaknesses.  We're celebrating that reason in a few days.  My Savior has come and I'm so grateful for His atonement.  I'm grateful that I can be made whole after I feel so empty.  I'm grateful that even through the darkness of this past year, I can still have a hope for a better existence.

So, Santa, go ahead and leave some stuff for the kids or whatever you've already got planned.  I'm sure we'll enjoy them.  Just know that I think we understand why you give presents.  I would be pretty generous too if I was celebrating the best news to reach humanity.


-Brad Reynolds

P.S. I forgot one more thing that I am grateful for: George Lucas didn't have anything to do with Star Wars VII.

P.P.S.  I'd really love a TARDIS if you have an extra one lying around...


MACES: Wrapping things up

It took me almost a year working between projects, but I finally finished up my model of the MACES spacesuit this week.

A heroic shot, because why not? 

 Various controls for the head and helmet

Turnaround renderings

Overall I am very pleased with how this turned out.  It's nothing all that glamorous compared to other spacesuit designs I have seen on the internet, but it will be a good asset for our studio to have.

I developed some pretty complex controls to the rig to simplify the time it takes to animate things.  Over the past few years of using Modo regularly, I have grown accustomed to how those controls need to be developed.  You can dynamically blend the arms between forward and inverse kinematics, open and close the hands, and open the visor and faceplate.  There is actually a lot of dynamic math that goes on behind the scenes to make the controls so easy.  For example, this is the setup for the left arm:

I guess all the practice I had in connecting and disconnecting audio visual equipment finally paid off.

I have a few more tidbits I want to add into this, but for now the base model will be a great addition to our animations.


MACES: An Update on a Work-Work Work in Progress

For the past two weeks between the all important "Let's Plan the Future of Space Exploration for the World" projects, I have been working heavily on our model of the MACES.  Last week I was able to spend a few days sculpting out all of the fine details like folds, wrinkles, and stitches on the model.  The high resolution ZBrush model was about 90 million polygons in the end with 19 different sub-meshes.  It's probably the most detailed ZBrush model I have ever done.  I am curious to know if there are faster ways of getting to an end result, or if I really am on par with how other ZBrush artists work elsewhere in the industry.

Compare this shot to the previous post and you'll see all the details.

The little details like the zippers and stitches are what really sell it.

 One of the most important selling points of a model like this is to see bunching and pinching of the fabric along any seams where it is sewn.  It is a long and arduous process to get it like that, but in the end it pays off.

Right now all of the "wrinkle" data is coming from a single 8K normal map, but I am considering redoing the UVs to fit is into two 8K maps.

I still need to create a mask parts of the bump map.  The light grey areas shouldn't have a weave pattern in them.

All in all, I am pleased with the progress, although I learned a lot about ZBrush practices along the way.  This is the first time I have ever maxed out my computer's RAM using ZBrush, all 24GB of it.  I still have to add a lot of other details in the hard-surface parts like the helmet, but this is good progress.


New Demo Reel

I decided it was time to update my demo reel now that I've worked at NASA for almost three years. I've come a ways since graduation.

MACES: A Work-Work Work in Progress

Every once in a while I get the chance to work on something that doesn't fall under the "Sensitive but unclassified" criteria.  One of the things I have been working on between projects at work is a newer, more detailed 3D model of the Modified Advanced Crew Escapes Suit, or MACES. Our current one was cobbled together from older models and photographs for textures.  Overall, it doesn't look that impressive when you put it against some of our other models.

Last August we got to go take some reference photos of the MACES in the lab where it is being developed.  It was a very fun experience and I can't say that I didn't geek out a bit.  This suit is being designed as a launch and reentry suit for the new Orion vehicle.  NASA developed the ACES (Advanced Crew Escape Suit) after the Challenger incident and used it all the way through the end of the shuttle program.  This is the next generation with a few modifications.

I was provided a laser scan of the suit and some basic CAD geometry from one of the engineers at the lab.  From there, I have been modeling all of the tiny little details of the helmet and adjustment straps.  This is as far as I have been able to get in the meantime, but it's ready for ZBrush and textures in Photoshop:

This is the shape of the suit once it is fully inflated.  Modeling the most neutral pose for the suit will ensure realistic movement when I rig and animate it.

I still have to sculpt out all the small details and wrinkles of the torso.  Thankfully, the laser scan I was provided helped out with reference and scale quite a bit.

 I just wanted to point out some one of the cool details about these renderings: there is reflective 3M tape on the back of the helmet that slightly refracts the light as is bounces off of it, causing a slight rainbow pattern in the reflections.  I found out a way to replicate that here in the shader.

Another interesting note is that the environment image that I used to light the model is actually a panorama of the suit lab that we took the reference photos in.  That way I can match up colors and lighting to make sure it looks correct.

One of these days I will finish it all up, but there is a lot left to do.  For example, I've got human heads to put in so it looks real, as well as all the rigging that will go into it.  In the end, however, I hope to have a fantastic model and demo reel piece.


Chinese Christmas: My Annual Letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I apologize for the lateness in this letter and hope you'll forgive me.  As your elf intelligence agency probably has already informed you, my family and I were traveling during most of the month of December and haven't yet been able to celebrate our own family Christmas.  I hope this year you will please oblige in in our late celebration of Christmas and bring our presents sometime this next week.  We're calling the celebration "Chinese Christmas" since it's coming before the only new year celebration that follows it:

Anyway, I know that by now you're probably soaking in the jacuzzi still after bringing joy to all the world, but if you don't mind stopping by for our celebration, I'd appreciate it.

How is the missus?  After hundreds of years of marriage, have you guys figured out how to get along in all aspects? That would be some good knowledge to pass along if you've got some.  Even though I've been married for almost four years, I'm still learning how to be a husband.  Some days I feel like I've got a long way to go.

Here are my demands Christmas wishes for this year, in no order of importance:

If you could continue sending good antibodies our way this next year, it would be greatly appreciated.  Compared to the previous year, our health this year was spectacular.  It probably helped that we had two walls in our apartment replaced that had been destroyed by water damage (and likely mold) as well as having the air vents cleaned.  It has been nice to have our kids not be coughing all the time and, although they are kids and are prone to sickness, they have been much happier this year.

Additionally, if you could send some good health and cheer to all our family out there, that would be great.  Both mine and Sarah's parents are continually feeling the ticking of Father Time's clock and we would love to have them enjoy some good health this year.  Our kids are still young enough that they might not be forming long lasting memories yet and I would like them to remember their grandparents.  I was very young when my Grandma Reynolds passed away and I am always wishing that I could have been old enough to remember her.  She loved children and I would have liked to remember that.

If it's at all possible that you could stop Michael Bay from making any more movies, I'm sure many people would appreciate it.

Also if have any ins within the aerospace community where they need engineering visualization done, I would appreciate knowing about them.  I've been very fortunate in my current job to be involved in some high-profile concepts here at NASA and to work with some brilliant people.  However, with only one annually renewed contract keeping me employed, I constantly am wondering when it will feel like I have a career path to follow.  It gets a little old when the summer rolls around and I get to wonder whether or not I will be able to go to work on October 1st.  Some work outside of government entities would be nice, but I'd take any additional contracts at this point.

If you have any room in your sack for any vacations, that would be splendid.  This past year we had our first real "vacation" as a little family when we spent time with some good friends of ours in Destin, Florida.  It was one of the nicest times I've had in a while with my family.  The venue was great, the company was better, and I have lots of fond memories of that experience.  I've realized that I don't really have many desires for "stuff" anymore and that good memories with my kids are what I cherish the most.  Hopefully we'll get a chance to spend some quality time somewhere here in the future.

I honestly don't think there's much else that I could ask for right now, except maybe to spread out that feeling that we feel at Christmas a little longer.  I didn't mind delaying Christmas this year, honestly, because that meant that we could enjoy the spirit of the season a bit longer.  Heaven knows that the world needs more of that feeling.  Maybe I'll just keep delaying Christmas in the Reynolds home further and further until we have that feeling all the year round.

Just as a reminder, the fireplace is wired shut to keep the kids out of it.  I don't know why we have one in Texas, but just remember that when you arrive.  Maybe use some sort of quantum teleportation device or something.  That chimney is pretty gross.  I'll try to leave some good treats out for you on Chinese Christmas Eve.  Do you accept fortune cookies?

Hope you had a good regular Christmas.  See you soon!


-Brad Reynolds

P.S. I don't know if you remember my request from last year, but if you have any room in your sack for a 300 foot tall jaeger fighting robot, I could use one to take care of some of the cockroaches here.


P.P.S. Actually if you have a TARDIS, I wouldn't mind one of those either.


AMA Unclassified: Z-Suit

A few weeks ago I lost my office to my ten-month old son.  As such, my 3D free time at home is pretty limited.  But on the upswing, we don't have to worry about the kids waking each other up in the middle of the night!

I have been working on a rigged model of the Z-suit for work.  This is the next generation suit that NASA will use to replace the EMU.  There are currently two designs, the Z1, which is a soft-torso EVA suit, and the Z2 that incorporates hard-surface elements into a surface suit.  Both can be configured to be used in conjunction with the suitport.  

The rig I created has a wide variety of controls, including some sliders to increase the amount of dirt and weathering on the model.  I did a few test renders today to get the hang of how easy it was to work the rig:

On the surface of the moon 

Surface of Mars

More fun stuff I have worked on.  I hope to animate one of these guys here soon.