Stress: A Brief Summary of the Past Month

July 30, 2012

So some interesting things happened.

A Brief Summary of the Past Month, in Three Acts

Act 1: Website Issues

On July 7th, I got a funny email from the legal department of some porn site claiming that I had hacked their servers and that I should cease and desist immediately or they would threaten legal action or something like that. Since they claimed to be from "" or something ridiculous like that, I deleted the email and thought of it as spam.

Fast forward twenty minutes: Turns out there was a rather large load of traffic to a php script on my website that I couldn't remember making. Upon further examination, it appeared that the script was logging IP addresses to a text file. That was odd and unnerving. I promptly got rid of that, did a bit of research as to how it might have got there, fixed the security hole, and changed my passwords just to be safe. So far so good. However, after a few minutes, I noticed that the site was becoming increasingly laggy. This was because the hits had jumped up to 10,000 since I had last checked. Normally, my website only gets maybe one and a half hundred a day. Then, emails started piling in from other people claiming that I had hacked their sites. What had happened was that the same person or group that got my website presumably also infected a bunch of others and made them redirect to mine. I tried replying to all the emails individually, but they started coming in faster than I could reply. I decided instead to put a message up on my website where the now-deleted php script was so that people would be redirected to that rather than a 404 error. I put up what I was putting in my emails: No, I didn't hack your site. Yes, I'm on your side. I was hacked, too, and I'm in almost the same boat. Here is how your site was probably infected and here's how to get rid of the problem.Except then the server started faltering. I had previously set it to log any redirects into the database because I was testing something out a while ago and forgot to turn it off, so that was causing a lot of the problem. I disabled that, and that helped for a bit. But things still were slowing down rapidly, so I ran a script that would cache the main pages and serve them up as static html files rather than php files to minimize as much server load as possible, and that worked. I also made it start blocking certain redirects from infected sites that were sending me a particularly large load of traffic. Anyway, the server was handling the load reasonably well, and I was a bit proud of myself for dealing with it smoothly. At 2:00 in the morning on the 8th, there had been some 50,000 hits since 10:00 the night before, and then the hits started decreasing. The problem was dealt with, or so I thought.

A few days later, when the hit counts were beginning to return to normal levels, my site was taken down by the service provider, claiming that it had gone over my CPU limit and that I should upgrade my hosting plan. Unfortunately, even after trying to reason with them that this was not the normal traffic level and that it would get back to normal very soon, my site was still inaccessible and I still wasn't going to upgrade my plan. I've been too tired to negotiate further, so my site has remained offline since then. But because the site has been down and my message is now gone, the nasty emails began rolling in again with people who are really mad at me and who are threatening me and claiming that "I don't fucking know who I'm dealing with" and such. I did, however, also get some funny emails, like one from a guy whose website wasn't hacked, but who tried to visit a beer and wine blog which was, and found himself on mine. He then asked if there were any other beer and wine blogs he could get his beer and wine news from while the other one was being fixed.

So yeah, that was fun.

Act 2: Work at a Summer Camp

It's been a really long time since I've gone to a summer camp, but now I work at one. It's been pretty interesting. It's a science, tech, and computer science camp. My coworkers are pretty awesome, and they're all as geeky as I am, and even though I'm the youngest one working there by far, we're all friends. We all went to see the new Batman movie after work one day, which was nice.

As far as the actual work went, though, it's been quite the experience. I'll start off with the most interesting story. When I was working with a group of grade 1 and 2 kids (around ages 6-8, for those in other countries), and we were doing some really basic flash animation, a kid went and did his business on the floor. I'd like to think he was just so intrigued by the Flash lesson that he just couldn't get himself away from the computer to use the washroom. But no matter how it happened, we ended up with a shit on the floor. Another kid stepped in it somehow, and then started screaming and running all over the place, not thinking that he would be spreading it around by doing so. We had to interrupt the lesson and take everyone outside because the kids were starting to panic. Then we had to clean up the mess. It was definitely not the work I had signed up for, but it must have been even worse for some of the volunteers, who had to clean up shit and weren't even paid for it. Let's have a moment of silence for the bravery of those poor, poor volunteers.

tl;dr shit happens

Other than that, things went pretty well. I enjoy working where I do, and teaching programming and stuff is pretty fun, especially for the older age groups, who actually take it in and want to learn. I thought it would be a problem that I'd be maybe only one year older than some of them, but that didn't end up being a problem. It just made communication easier, if anything. Also it meant that we didn't have to waste time telling them how to spell stuff. We also had these awesome LAN Armagetron tournaments, which were cool. The only trouble with everything was that the hours were pretty long. I'd go in for 7:30 and leave at 5:30. That doesn't leave a whole lot of time for animation and stuff, considering I have to actually get to bed on time now. That brings me to the next act:

Act 3: NATA

First and foremost, I believe that because of a lack of time, resources, and creativity, I didn't make as good of a movie as I would have liked this time around. I mean, it's at the point now where I feel like it's a chore to open up Flash and start working. It just isn't fun, and I think that it needs to feel fun in order to actually put everything you can into a project. Do you know that feeling when you're in the middle of a project and then just get a sinking feeling that maybe what you're doing wasn't actually such a great idea, but you're too far in to turn back? That's pretty much what I felt. I don't know, I think I could just use a break. I won't be upset if I get eliminated this round because I'm against a great animator, and if I have to get out, now's not a bad time. It wouldn't be an unwelcome change to be able to take a bit of time to relax and wait for inspiration to hit so that I could make a movie that I can take as much time as I need on. I'm just going to try to regain a positive attitude, I guess.

And on that note, I think I should talk about what I can learn from this entry. Firstly, something that I thought went well. I let some of my friends help play some of the music, which was nice because it meant that I didn't have to worry about practising music to the point where I feel it is good enough, and that I could focus more on the animation. Unfortunately we had some technical difficulties with the microphone and ended up with some clipped sound, which I guess is something that happens when I don't have full control, but I think I dealt with it enough that the soundtrack still sounds nice. Also, I used some of Bing's music again near the end, which is always nice, because it's awesome music and it tends to fit well with the stuff I make.

Unfortunately, not everything else went well. I tried doing some animation on paper with a light table, but it turns out those things heat up an awful lot, which is a killer on a hot day, and also when I scanned them in and found a slight fault I had made (I accidentally put the wrong leg in front on one frame and then carried it on throughout the following frames), I had to end up redrawing almost all of it anyway. Being able to preview as you go is a really good feature of working digitally. Oh well. Lesson learned, I guess.

Also you'll notice a lot more 3D stuff. That's there mainly as a time saving thing. Once I have one 3D model, I don't have to redraw it. It's a bit faster, and it sometimes looks nice. I sort of like how the shatter thing ended up near the beginning of the movie. The rest admittedly doesn't fit as well, but it saved me time, so it had its purpose. If I ever get some free time, I'd like to try out 3D animation in a context that fits the medium more, such as in a full-3D animation, or in combination with video, which is something I've always wanted to learn more about. I just need to wait for the time and inspiration first, though.

Lastly, I've been out of town a bit, which has been a major hindrance to the completion of the movie. It meant that any recordings for the music became final because the only internet I could get reliably from my cell phone, which is slow and I also do not technicaly have a plan for, making it costly. Also, being stuck with a laptop trackpad is arguably worse than a mouse for drawing and especially for 3D animation (try using blender without the scroll wheel/middle click. I dare you.) Luckily, most of that was already done, and I was able to make the credits using only the text tool and the geometry tools (line, circle, etc.) However, uploading the video was a problem, and I spent the majority of the day visiting a bunch of towns near the cottage I'm at trying to find a restaurant or something that would let me sit around for an hour or two uploading my movie. I guess I probably shouldn't have made it 720p. Oops. Should have thought that one over more.

So anyway that was my past month. It's a little weird knowing that from now on, all of my summers will be this busy until I retire. That's pretty scary. I guess I'll get used to it eventually.

/end transmission