Hello, my name is Kyle Smith and this is my Six Foot Giraffe. A growing collection of personal art, thoughts, and memories. Since 2007.
I set out to run 100 miles for June and I ended up running 101 for good measure. I ran 29 days out of 30, which also means I’ve probably listened to The Power of Love by Huey Lewis & The News at least 58 times. It’s the most I’ve ever run in a month, and maybe a world record for The Power of Love listens. You just can’t not be fired up to be alive when you hear that song.
In all seriousness though, felt good to be setting new records instead of just looking back on old ones. Particularly because I also turned a year older in June. Nothing better fights the feeling of time trying to bring you to your knees, than that brief moment in your stride where both feet are off the ground and you’re openly defying gravity.
I’ve also been wearing a fitness tracker, and by the end of the month I noticed my resting heart rate had become considerably lower. About 10 beats per minute less. Mid 40’s while I slept and low 60’s otherwise. It was cool to see the body doing what the body does, and to know that the hard things can equate to something good.
In the end, I’m glad I reached new heights but a part of me doesn’t feel entirely honest about the win. I know I could’ve gone further or run faster. No reason I couldn’t have, but I guess it’s just a fine line between enjoyment and punishment. Never the less, I still did what I said I would, and that’s a challenge enough on it’s own for most of us. The last and probably most important thing I learned is, no matter how tired you think you are, you’re still gonna be able to smash through a brick wall once you’ve hit the 4 minute mark of Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer.
We came, we saw, we fed. Got to spend a little time with our good friends Mike and Christina’s daughter, Leona. She’s hardly a few months old, so we’ve got a little ways to go until I can show her how to start fires with a magnifying glass and other fun and really safe things like that, but she’s a beautiful happy baby all the same. I’ve always been thankful we see Mike and Christina as often as we do, but even more so now since it means we’ll probably get to see Leona grow up in realtime. Something that’s not exactly true for most of our friends who’ve had kids, which makes it even that much more special. Above all else, my greatest hope is that I can be the equivalent to an Uncle Buck for her, because let’s face it, we all need an Uncle Buck. Welcome to the team Leona.
Finally got around to editing some footage from Fourth of July weekend two years ago. My turnaround time for these has really fallen off a cliff, but better late than never. We hiked, barbecued, boated, bowled and found ourselves entertaining a bar full of strangers at karaoke. With twenty of us on a boat and plenty of drinks in hand, it’s a miracle nobody fell overboard. Happy Fourth everyone.
Sixty. Second. Showers. That was my challenge for the month of May. I skipped a few days for a little staycation we had, but for the vast majority of the month, I stuck to it. Why would I even want to do this one? Well, guess I was just curious. Curious if it’d make my days more efficient. Curious if a short shower would be more invigorating than a long one. Curious if I could even do it. For as long as I’ve taken showers, I’ve taken them long. Always done a lot of thinking in there. Found a lot of ideas. Batman has his Bat Cave, Superman has his Fortress of Solitude, I have a phonebooth-sized shower stall that I can’t fully raise my arms in. Doesn’t stop me from standing in there until my back is as hot as the surface of the Sun though.
Unsurprisingly, on my first day I couldn’t believe it when my 60 seconds ran up and I had to cut the water. Also couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous it all was. It’s absolute mania. I’m talking a full-body cardiovascular workout for a sustained 60 seconds. It’s the only way to get the job done in that amount of time. Definitely a little tougher and a lot more comedic than I thought it’d be. Even after a week straight of it, still had doubts I’d be able to keep it up. Like most things though, you get used to it. Even had some days where it felt like I only had a second or two left on my timer, but in reality I had over a full 30 seconds left when I glanced at my watch. Lucky me. Things always get easier the more you do them, for better or for worse.
In the end, it was a unique and kind of fun experience, but not one I’m making a habit of. I did end up with a little more time on my hands than I’d usually have, so on that front I did feel more productive. Thing is, that benefit isn’t worth close to the cost of losing that decompression and introspection which typically goes on when I’m in a hot shower. Nice to know I can pull it off when I need to, but there’s honestly few things that beat turning the shower knob to the molten-lava angle and having a good think. Above all else, the challenge has been a reminder that many of the things I think I need, are really just luxuries. I’ve known this, but often forget it. One thing for certain is, if you’re ever looking for a good laugh, try taking a 60 second shower.
A real breath of fresh air being with friends we hadn’t seen in person for over a year. The true highlight though, was holding their daughter Della for the first time. She’s a fun baby with a fashion sense already at expert mode and it didn’t take long fo us to fall under her spell. Seen together here at a photoshoot for a Levi’s denim ad campaign.
Aimed to walk at least 30 minutes everyday of April. A pretty straight forward one. I’ve been working from home for over a year now, and as a result not moving around as much as I was. Being at a studio everyday usually meant a bike commute and a mile or two walk on lunch. Getting out and getting moving felt like a good idea. I surrendered to a busy workday here and there, missing a few days, but for the most part it was a breeze.
I usually set out after work, getting back just as the sun set. Somedays walking more than 30 minutes, but never less. I’d listen to music, or catch up on podcasts. Death, Sex & Money is by leaps and bounds always a favorite. All the while getting to know my neighborhood a little better, and racking up some steps for the day.
I set this goal to benefit the body, but it did more for the mind I think. A body in motion is a mind in motion. Getting out and moving has always brought me some clarity in foggy times. It felt good to make it a priority for the month and capture those mental benefits. I’d be lying if said I didn’t need it.
My Grandfather passed away a little over two weeks ago. My Dad’s father and the only Grandfather I’d ever known. His name was James Patrick Smith. He was just shy of 89 Years old. A long life that above all else, defined him as a devoted husband, and a father loved by his five children. He was as hard working as they come. Legend has it, he hadn’t taken a day off work for 40 Years. A child of the Great Depression who cleaned his plate even if what was on it wasn’t always his favorite. Though, it’d be hard to know if he didn’t like something, since he never complained about a thing. He loved long walks, opera, football, and literally anything that concerned chocolate. He had a booming deep voice, and his laugh could fill every room of the house, and he laughed often. He always wore a wrist watch. I think he always understood the weight of time, which led him to always have a camera in hand or video recorder resting on his shoulder at any family gathering, which he and my grandmother always made a priority.
He filled many roles for many people, but to me he was someone I affectionately called Gramp. I had the good fortune of being born while my parents were still young, and my grandparents still only in the first half of their 50s. Still full of life and vigor. I’ll forever be grateful for that. An experience many of my cousins didn’t have. I wouldn’t be surprised if my brother and I even kept my grandparents a little younger, for a little longer. We’d spend entire weekends there with them. Together we’d play games, watch movies, indulge in all kinds of sweets, explore our town and soak up anything they told us like sponges. We were just about spoiled rotten. We loved it, and we loved them.
I remember a particular fascination I had with my Grandfather’s hat. So much so that when anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d tell them with unwavering certainty, a door-to-door hat salesman. It was a simple bucket hat he’d wear on his commute from the suburbs to downtown Chicago by train each day for work. When I was there on weekdays, I couldn’t wait for him to walk through the door to get my hands on that hat. As the story goes, I’d sometimes get a little impatient, and just use my imagination and put the dog bowl on my head instead. Regardless of how much dog food was already in it. When he’d finally come charging through the door, he’d always make this boisterously triumphant trumpet sound announcing his arrival. I’d run to meet him and in one swift motion he’d move his hat from his head to mine. Looking back on it, it’s clear I was just like any child wanting to wear the costume of a super hero they idolized. It must have made him feel fantastic.
As I got older, it was clear I didn’t fit the exact mold of some of the things he valued, whether that be having an interest in sports, being an ace student, or being involved with the church. Hell, I don’t even like chocolate that much. But none of that mattered and I know he was proud of me all the same, and know because he’s expressed that. Particularly, he was proud I chose to turn my passion into my career, and pursued my own kind of happiness.
In the end, I believe he was ready to go. His mind was still razor sharp, but his body had long been in decline. But beyond all else, I think he just wanted to be with my Grandmother again. Ever since she passed on, he’d often say with a chuckle something along the lines of, “I don’t know what I’m still doing here!” Particularly whenever I’d call him on his birthday. I can’t think of a more potent explanation of what love is than the sight of my invincible Grandfather crumbling to a thousand pieces as he stood over my Grandmother’s casket. And all this time since, he’s just been stuck at the station, waiting for his train to take him back home to her. Just as he always used to. He was a devout Catholic, and there was no doubt in his mind what he believed to be next for him, and it brings me a great sense of peace, knowing he was at peace himself.
Goodbye Gramp. I love you very much and I’ll never forget you.
Can’t really say when I got in the habit of bad posture, but probably somewhere in middle school. In any case, once it took hold, it never seemed to let go. Something that’s always bothered me. Aesthetically and physically. Without fail by the end of each day the middle of my back is sore and burning. Been this way for as long as I can remember. I used to ask my brother to walk with his full weight across my back, after being so beat up from my after school job each day. It’s a wonder we didn’t make things worse. Each morning brings a reset for me, but it’s short lived. So everyday of March I tried to make a point to focus on better posture.
I started out by diving into an internet blackhole of what healthy posture should be, and quickly learned that my own posture falls into something called kyphosis. Googling the word gave me a shot of confidence because it looks like things could be a hell of a lot worse. Then I started practicing specific exercises tailored to my posture. A lot of things you’d feel pretty weird doing in a gym surrounded by strangers to say the least. Also got this tiny device you stick to your back that vibrates if you start to slouch. Used that for several hours every day, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t as annoying as it sounds. Kinda feels like being in a group text chain of twenty people who never stop texting each other. But hey, it works.
By the end of the month I couldn’t say that I felt any different, but I knew from the start, a month wouldn’t be enough to undo this one. Mostly, I was just looking to jump start something new. Still keeping up with that annoying little device, and including posture exercises in my regular workouts, but my biggest takeaway was more a mental one than a physical. Sort of these random mental audits of how I’m standing at any given point. Where is my pelvis? How far am I leaning over this cutting board? Is my neck so far out that it looks like I’m going in for a kiss with my monitor? You get the idea. Don’t know if it’ll ever get better, but I’ll keep trying. One thing for sure is, our parents sure as hell weren’t kidding when they told us to sit up straight.
The thing about working alone on a project that would normally be done by a team of people, is you’re going to end up wearing a lot of different hats. Somedays you’re an artist, somedays a programer, and other days a graphic designer making a pause menu and control system that’s bound to confuse even the brightest among us. Keeps things interesting to say the least, and if any of those hats ever start to feel a little too tight, you just put a new one on.
I was exclusively concerned with Peewee Herman, Batman, and Edward Scissor Hands at the time the Gulf War was happening, but as I grew to learn about it as a teenager and further as an adult, the photographs of the burning oil fields always struck something in me. Towering columns of fire shooting up from the Earth, speckled across an endless horizon, burning day and night. I sometimes feel how those images look. Particularly, the unseen part. I feel like that oil deep beneath the surface. Not knowing how much is under there, but only that it’s being violently spent every minute of every hour of every day.
Della’s first Six Foot Giraffe. Love how her little hands appear to be proudly presenting her limited edition, Six Foot Giraffe Della Anthem Onesie. Can’t wait to meet her, but truly I can’t wait till she’s old enough to sneak and share candy with until we’re both sick to our stomachs. Everyone needs that aunt or uncle, and hell, I think it could be me.
Headed up to Big Bear for a long weekend getaway with the Boggs’. We did some light hiking, set a few smoke detectors off cooking, some hot tubbing, some card playing, some star gazing, and gathered around some candles and a fireplace wondering when the power would come back on. We also taught the kids how to play Roulette, for better or for worse. Spencer and Nikki, please, please don’t grow up to be degenerate gamblers. The house always wins.
I don’t typically have a problem with mindless phone scrolling at night. By day’s end I’m tired and ready for sleep. The morning can be another story though. I’m awake by 7am somedays, but sometimes not “up” for another hour or even more. Usually because I’m mindlessly scrolling through my phone. News, stocks, social media, wikipedia rabbit holes, whatever. Even though this doesn’t happen all the time, I don’t want it to happen at all. It’s not how I want to spend what time I have, so I decided for all for February to make a hard rule to not touch my phone in bed. Morning or night. Unsurprisingly, it was a great idea.
Alexis is usually still sound asleep when my watch silently buzzes on my wrist at 7:30am, and I open my eyes. It’s here where I would usually reach for my phone and scroll from anywhere between 5 minutes to an hour and a half. But now that I couldn’t do that, I really only had two options, go back to sleep, or get up and get going. I almost always got going. I don’t start work till 10am, and working remotely means no commute, so everyday I had a good chunk of time to do the things I wanted to do, just for me. Man, does that always feel good. Doing what you want to do, before the day has any opportunity to dictate what you have to do. I’ve known this, and that’s why I like waking up early nowadays. Sticking to this hard rule for the month helped me protect some of my most valuable time by making sure it wasn’t being siphoned off by my thumb and my phone.
There was a small downside. I really only read the news at night or the morning, and usually in bed. So cutting that out maybe meant being a little less informed at any given moment. Though, I find a lot of news is just the same story everyday with a few more details than the day before. In the end then, I have to guess I wasn’t missing too much by only catching up on the weekends.
All in all, I’m glad I took the time to do this, and I’m going to keep it up. It was a good reset. I know that old habits die hard though, so I took it a step further and have since permanently moved my phone and charger across the room. Can’t reach it from bed at all anymore. I’d go even further and set my phone to blast Eye of the Tiger across the room at 7AM, but I’m afraid that could land my wife in prison for attempted murder.
Well over a day had passed before I even realized I got a very, very small feature on the Unreal Engine Twitter account this weekend. I was pretty surprised. It means this image hit the eyes of somewhere in the neighborhood of half a million people. Don’t really know what that equates to, if anything at all, but I know it felt good to be acknowledged even if in the smallest way by the very people connected to the software I’ve been trying my hardest to learn.
They made a one day only Mars donut to celebrate the Perseverance Rover touching down on the Martian surface. It’s been so awesome to hear about my buddy Mike’s experiences and insights over his past several years working on the project at JPL.
Can’t help but feel pretty cool being able say I know someone who works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and yet even cooler to be able to call him a friend. Congrats Mike, and thanks for any excuse to have a donut.
No sweets, all of January. This meant cutting out all the usual suspects that come to mind when you think of sweets, and being more mindful of everyday things with excessive amounts of added sugars. Things like instant oatmeals, soups even. Definitely no mixers if I had any alcohol. Even cut back on fruit. This one came about because, well we really went off the rails in December. I wasn’t counting, but if I had to guess, I’d say I had more Christmas cookies than there are days in December. Some people have a sweet tooth, but I definitely have sweet teeth. Figured It’d be a good idea to give it a rest.
Sounds an awful lot like an excuse, but I’ve always thought my capacity to go off the deep end with sweets was because growing up we didn’t really have them around the house. At least not in excess, which always seemed the case at friend’s houses. It was pretty common for me or my brother to be staring blankly at the kitchen pantry that was literally full of ingredients to MAKE food, and declare “There’s nothing to eat in this house.” Can’t help but laugh thinking about it.
In any case, the challenge wasn’t hard to stick to. It honestly only gets tricky for me when sweets are already in the house. You’ll never find me tempted at a checkout line. Alexis is the literal polar opposite though. She’ll buy a Kit-Kat because she’s craving it, have one stick, then throw the rest in the fridge for 2 months. All the while stretching the limits of my willpower and sanity. Eventually when I break and ask if she’s ever gonna eat that, she says she forgot it was even there, and have it if I want… Torturous.
So in the end, can’t say I feel any different, but it’s nice knowing I did the body some good after a hell of a bender in December. With it in the front of my mind now, I’m sure I’ll be a little better about it all for a while. Make no mistake though, my love for donuts is undying, and knows no bounds. Always and forever.
Building out some environmental puzzles while I continue developing the art direction for Greenfield. Feeling momentum now. Making an image in your mind’s eye visible to anyone, takes time and takes effort. When you can get it right though, and seen just the way you see it, it’s really something.
Revisiting and refining the design of the protagonist in Greenfield. I like the idea of keeping the face featureless, so players might project their own emotions onto the character based on their own experience in the game. Or to sound less full of it, I just like the way it looks.
More adventures in game dev. This tool I built takes a square tessellated plane and manipulates its scale to make something that resembles a terrain. I can then map other objects to it, like grass, weeds, rocks, bushes or anything else I’d like. I can get even more granular and control different properties of those objects too. I can connect that piece of terrain to any other as if they were legos and quickly build out an entire environment in just a few seconds, with just a few clicks.
I wrote the logic for this once, and that took time, but I can reuse it over and over again, able to create an infinite number of variations. It’s a essential concept in Unreal that I’m still wrapping my head around to be honest. I can tell you with certainty though, using tools to make new tools is pretty satisfying.
2020 was a mess on a lot of fronts, but a bright spot for me personally was following through on my resolutions. My biggest and toughest resolution was to learn Unreal Engine. A year later, it’s honestly still a work in progress. I’ve been simultaneously learning the interface, art pipeline, animation pipeline, visual scripting logic, and performance optimization among other things. Somedays feel like I haven’t come very far at all, but others feel pretty good, considering less than a year ago the program wasn’t even installed on my computer yet. Hopefully it’s upwards and onwards from here, but it’s hard to say. As much fun as it is, it still feels incredibly daunting. Here’s a small peek at a game I’ve been developing with what I’ve learned so far:
My second resolution was to exercise at least every other day. Above all else, this one made sure a missed day or two didn’t snowball into a completely derailed week or month. Seemed like a cycle I’d been stuck in the past few years, but this simple rule got me out of it. I made exceptions to let my body bounce back from injury or for a long weekend getaway here and there, but for the most part I nailed it. It’s formed into a habit at this point, and hoping to keep it that way.
My third resolution was to avoid hangovers. I know, I know, the depth of my shame is bottomless. I wasn’t exactly swearing off alcohol, but I’ve long been ready to swear off hangovers. I drink socially, so the pandemic really dropped my consumption this year, and in turn lowered any chance of being hungover to begin with. Even so, I still fell short on a few occasions. At least three I can think of. It wasn’t perfect, but it was more wins than losses, and if I can keep it in the front of my mind, the record should be an undefeated one soon enough.
Lastly, I took a shot at some monthly challenges throughout the year and reflected on my experiences with them month by month. In short, I ended up satisfying some curiosities, kickstarted some better habits, and knocked back a few bad ones.
All in all, it was a win in a challenging year. I’d never done anything like it and ended up having a lot of fun with it. So much so, that it feels weird to just stop down at this point. So I think I’ll keep on. More on that later.