President Obama and the Pope

This week in Rome, President Obama will meet with Pope Francis for the first time.

Since his election last year, Pope Francis has made numerous proclamations that many have found to be unusually liberal minded for the Church, both politically and even when it comes to social issues like gay marriage. During their closed door meeting on Thursday, President Obama and the Pope are expected to discuss an issue that's been of great concern to both of them: the problem of growing inequality and lack of opportunity among the poor. In the U.S., some in the right-wing media have gone so far as to label the Pope a communist or, even worse, a LIBERAL. They've come to expect such talk from the President, but when the leader of the Catholic Church starts talking about the failure of 'trickle-down economics', he's simply gone too far. According to Rush Limbaugh, "this pope makes it very clear he doesn't know what he's talking about when it comes to capitalism." God forbid that the Church voice an opinion on unchecked greed and the plight of the poor.

While it's true that President Obama and Pope Francis have plenty of common ground when it comes to helping the poor, there are also some areas where the two disagree. Obama's use of drones and the civilian casualties that sometimes result are one. Legalized abortion is another. Still, Pope Francis has made it clear in words and actions that world poverty is his overriding concern and that's what's expected to be the focus of tomorrow's meeting.

Change comes slow to government and even slower to the Church, but for progressives, it's encouraging to see the subjects of inequality and world poverty even being discussed at all.

The Polar Vortex: Grilling Weather in Chicago

"While I relish our warm months, winter forms our character and brings out our best." ~former U.S. House Rep.Tom Allen, Maine

"Winter is not a season,it's an occupation." ~Sinclair Lewis

With all due respect to former Rep. Allen (quoted above), while I agree that winter DOES form our character, whether it brings out our best is debatable, if driving etiquette is any indicator.

With all of February still ahead of us, The Chicago Tribune is already editorializing on this season being possibly 'The Worst Winter Ever'™. Not even halfway into into this winter of 2014 and it's already shaping up to be one of the coldest on record in a city known for its fierce winters. At Lincoln Park Zoo, even the polar bears huddled inside to avoid the sub-zero temperatures of the past few weeks.

The polar vortex has brought us a 1-2 punch of near record snow, arctic temperatures, and fodder for climate change deniers' bogus arguments. Funny how an obscure meteorological term around since at least 1950 can so quickly become part of our daily conversation.

Through all of this, Chicagoans have a tough reputation as winter spartans to uphold. So even though our home team may be absent from this year's Superbowl, let's fire up those grills for a weekend barbecue and show that Chicagoans won't let winter get us down. Just be sure to keep that shovel handy for the 6-8 more inches of predicted snowfall. (UGH!)

Conexpo-Con/AGG ads

Here's a 3D job that kept me busy for most of the past month. From what I gather, they're promoting a construction equipment convention that's going to be held in Las Vegas in March 2014. (Note: I DIDN'T do the video on their home page.) The images needed to be rendered big enough to output them for trade show booth displays, so the final file sizes were pretty much a bear to work with. I started with prebuilt 3D models which were purchased from Turbosquid , a 3D model site. I then used a cloth simulator in a 3D program which is a good start, but requires a lot of post rendering Photoshop work. The "cloth" is in fact a 3D plane that is dropped over the model (actually an invisible low-polygon-count "proxy" version, to get geeky for a moment) and frozen when it looks about right. Getting a proper feel to the fabric takes a good bit of fiddling with the cloth/gravity settings and trial-and-error.

Oh, and in the process, I also learned what "stanchions" are (those velvet rope barrier thingies).

Thanks to Joshua Schober for the excellent art direction.