My life

Goals for 2019

Well, they’re not really for 2019 specifically; they’re goals I had last year too. But since it’s the first day of a new year, seems a good time to remind oneself of one’s goals:

So I’ve got two main goals (aside from the constant goal of “be more productive and don’t waste too much time web browsing”):

  1. Continue preparing to start a business. This is the computer-assisted music composing software I’ve been working on for years now, and there is of course still much work to be done. This will be my main focus, as it certainly seems the most promising and the most rewarding.
  2. Write some fiction. I plotted quite a few stories in 2018, but I need to get back to actually writing some fiction. I’m thinking about posting some work on Royal Road, a story-sharing site. The goal, other than actually writing the fiction, is write regularly enough to build an audience, which may be easier on a site like Royal Road. There is so much competition on Amazon nowadays, and readers seem less likely to pay for an author whom they’ve never heard of before. Plus, if even a small number of people are reading my work as I’m working on it, it feels like it would encourage me to continue writing. A lot of famous writers were able work like that, publishing stories in pieces (like Charles Dickens), and then the practice sort of disappeared with the advent of television. The Internet has slowly been working to bring it back, but of course the competition is fiercer than ever.

So those are my two goals. They both require enough work that any other goal would be folly indeed.

Oh, one last goal is to write some more music and put out another album. But that won’t require nearly as much work as the two goals above, since the next album is 80% done already.

Also, I still need to post my yearly montage of all the films I watched last year, along with my “Year’s Best” for 2018 (and for 2017, which I never did). In the meantime, I updated my film log on MCL.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Dreams

The meaning of back-to-school nightmares, and PSVR

Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! One of my resolutions for the new year is to blog more, as blogging seems to help me think in words, which helps me think in general… I think. And I haven’t blogged much over the past year, so I got a little bit dumber.

I had a very good and peaceful Christmas. Pre-Christmas busy-ness was worse than usual though, so I didn’t have time to bake a bunch of cookies like I usually do, but I managed to eat too much on the holiday anyway. It’s nice to have a few days off. My big gift this year was a PSVR, which I’ve been wanting since it was released. I’ll blather about that in a bit, but first some thoughts on some nightmares I’ve had…

The meaning of nightmares in which I’m forced to go back to school

I got out of college in 2008.

Notice the phrasing of that sentence. I “got out.” Not “graduated.” I hate formal schooling so much that I think of it as something to “get out” of.

So it’s been over a decade since I got out of school, but throughout that decade I’ve been plagued by annoying nightmares about having to go back. Either I find myself back in college having to earn a few more credits, or I have go back to high school for some stupid reason even though I already graduated from college.

Last night I had an interesting and somewhat cathartic variation on this dream. I was forced to go back to high school and retake some classes, including AP European History, which I dreaded, not so much because the material was difficult, but because there was so much of it. Lots of notes to take and lots of essays to write and lots of names and dates to memorize. But I packed my bookbag and off I went.

When I got to school, however, the teachers had an announcement. “Would the following names please report to the office: Sean, [and three other names I don’t remember]. You four don’t have to be here. There’s nothing more we can do for you. We wish you the best in life and we’re sure you’ll do great!”

In the dream I was relieved. Freedom! The nightmare actually released me from its clutches. Although, what did they mean, “There’s nothing more we can do for you”? Was that because I was too dumb? Not good enough? Oh well, who cares, I was free!

But when I woke up and thought about it, it hit me: Was that why I was having these nightmares? Because my subconscious was (is?) insecure about how I did in high school and college? My subconscious was disappointed in me, knew I could’ve focused more and could’ve earned better grades, so it kept revisiting those stressful times in a sort of effort to “conquer” them? To fantasize about doing better? To try to understand why I hated it so much, why I didn’t do better?

Obviously, I don’t know the answer, but it’s certainly an idea I didn’t even think to consider before. There’s the conscious me, which says of my memories of high school and college, “I don’t care about how I did, I’m just happy to be out of it!” But it certainly feels possible that below the surface, in that mysterious realm where emotions and fears and dreams and desires are manufactured according to their own strange and mysterious logic, the subconscious was unsatisfied and frustrated by the high school and college experience, and that the seeds of these nightmares are planted in unresolved tension. At the very least, it’s an interesting idea that I hadn’t considered and something worthy of pondering.

Guess I’ll have to wait and see if I have any more nightmares about school, and/or whether they are varied in any way.

What would Jung say about this?

PSVR

PSVR and games and movies!

As mentioned earlier, my big gift this year was a PSVR. One of the coolest things I can do with it is watch 3D blu-rays! I love 3D movies, though of course the home video market for 3D films never really became popular enough. It’ll be interesting to see if they stop producing 3D blu-rays altogether. Already it seems impossible to find certain titles like Rogue One on blu-ray 3D (in the USA at least). But now I can bask in the beauty of Jurassic Park and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo in 3D! I’ve collected about a dozen other 3D movies as well. I watched a bit yesterday, and it was great! Granted, the resolution wasn’t great, as PSVR doesn’t give you full HD resolution in both eyes, but it’s still completely watchable, around (or perhaps a bit better than) DVD resolution.

I also played a bit of Skyrim in VR. I’m used to playing this game with a keyboard, so mostly I was terrible at fighting as I tried to figure out how to control the character with a PlayStation controller. Can’t do keyboard shortcuts like I’m used to. I suppose I could try hooking up a keyboard to the PS and see if Skyrim VR is even compatible with that. Moving around in the Skyrim world did make me a bit VR motion sick, though the “FOV filters” help a lot.

With that limited gaming experience, here’s my comparison between PSVR and Oculus Rift:

PSVR

  • More comfortable to wear (VR unit hangs in front of your eyes from a ring on your head)
  • In-ear headphone are more comfortable and deliver great sound
  • Supports 3D blu-rays
  • Resolution is decent
  • Field of view seems smaller, but as greater FOV causes more VR motion sickness, this is a tradeoff

Oculus Rift

  • Less comfortable to wear (VR unit presses against your face like ski goggles and gets too warm)
  • Headphones (not in-ear) aren’t great
  • Blu-ray support depends on your PC and so would cost more (I’ve never tried it)
  • Resolution seems a bit better; your GPU can likely offer better graphics (at greater cost)
  • Greater field of view, helps with immersion but causes more VR sickness

Overall, I’d say the PSVR wins at the moment largely due to its greater comfort. I can only play my Oculus Rift for up to about an hour before it starts to annoy me; it’s constantly pressing against my face, gets too warm, and leaves me with ski-goggle marks. PSVR’s design is far superior.

That said, I still prefer PC gaming to console gaming, though I don’t like the whole “Oculus Home” or whatever it’s called that Facebook (owner of Oculus) has tried to shove down everyone’s throat. It’s clunky and unneeded. (I understand they want some control over the market, as any console manufacturer gets for free, but too bad; that’s not in my interest as a consumer.) Overall, I’m hoping for a 3rd party company to come in and conquer them both, but we’ll probably have to wait a while. As with any new technology, I think most companies and investors are more concerned about the business models of this tech; innovation’s not worth much if you can’t sell it. We’re probably lucky (Luckey! haha) to have any VR at all.

By S P Hannifin, ago
General Update

What I’ve been up to lately…

It’s been a busy couple of months. I’ve been doing some freelance work, some volunteer work, selling stuff on eBay, and selling used books on Amazon. Haven’t had very much free time, but here’s what I’m working on:

I’m continuing to study music theory, particularly harmony and voice-leading, really taking a close look at how composers like Mozart and Tchaikovsky handle harmonizing their melodies in interesting ways. I’m looking forward to trying to put some of my observations into practice with some new music, but the days are flying by, so I can’t say when exactly I’ll get around to that.

I recently discovered flat.io, an online music notation tool that makes it easy to compose melodies or try out some harmonies on my smartphone while I’m away from the computer. It’s the best tool I’ve seen so far for music notating on a smartphone.

I also recently started playing around with PixiJS, a javascript library for rendering 2D graphics in the browser, able to utilize WebGL. I’d like to see if I can create a MIDI animator / editor with it. Although javascript can’t play an OS’s MIDI synths (as far as I know), I think it would still be interesting to have such a thing web-based. (I know there’s “Web MIDI” which I can look into, but that’s about the browser sending and receiving MIDI messages, not really “playing” a MIDI note.)

Actually, having a web-based MIDI player / editor (that I can have complete control over, both programming-wise and copyright-ownership-wise) is essential to my plan of creating online computer-aided song-writing software. I still really want to turn my melody generator into a full-fledged “music generator” and found a company around it.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to write this blog post using an iPad and a bluetooth keyboard, and it’s actually extremely annoying. The latest version of WordPress and this outdated iPad just don’t seem to play very well together. So I’m going to stop now. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

By S P Hannifin, ago
Dreams

Two weeks in another world

I just had one of the weirdest dreams I’ve ever had, so I thought I should write it down.

The idea that dreams are journeys to (or experiences in) other worlds isn’t new. Some years ago, I dreamt that I was in a little house with a little old woman who was sweeping the floor. The place felt so real. I asked her, semi-lucidly, “If I am just dreaming, am I just creating this house in my head?” She replied, “You were invited here.” Later on in that dream, I came across some weird-looking people walking on a sidewalk. I asked them, “If I am just dreaming when I talk to you, am I really talking to myself?” One of them replied, “Would you learn anything?”

So I think the nature of these dreamworlds, and the nature of consciousness and reality, are at the very least not as intuitive as they may seem while awake. (Like emotion, an experience is always real. You can’t have a fake emotion. You can’t have a fake experience. There may be some question as to whether the experience is self-consistent and/or conforms to a greater reality outside or beyond of itself (though I am not sure how exactly we define that), which we may use to identify hallucinations and delusions, but the experiences themselves are real.)

Anyway, the weirdest aspect of this dream was the sheer amount of time I felt like I spent in it. Time perception often goes a bit wacky in dreams, but I felt like I spent an entire two weeks in another world. The second weirdest aspect was that it was far more self-consistent than a regular dream. Or at least it felt that way; I’ve forgotten much of it, so there are a bunch of gaps in terms of how I got from point A to point B in retrospect, but I felt firmly that I was in this other world the whole time, self-consciously knowing that I was in this other world.

I don’t remember exactly how it began. I was in a different but very human-like body. It was an older child’s or young-adult’s body; it was definitely not an adult body, my guess is because I was new to that world so it made more sense to be in a body that suggested it needed to be looked after. Everyone had long hair. No one had facial hair. So everyone looked a bit like the elves in Lord of the Rings. Everyone wore pretty plain clothes; I guess they were more robe-like rather than shirt and pants. But they weren’t ornate or decorated or fancy (like what the elves in LOTR wear), they were very mundane and boring, but there were a variety of colors and they all went together. People didn’t seem to have much of a sense of individuality as no one seemed to be trying to stand out or look any better than anyone else. Some adults wore some funny things in their hair, they were like colorful little hoops that came out at angles. They would look clownish and ridiculous in this world, but they seemed to work there. Only adults wore these, not children.

They had no movies or televisions or telephones, but they also had no books. They didn’t seem to have any desire or need to tell stories like we do. We’re always inundating ourselves with stories with novels and movies and TV shows and even the news presents information in the form of stories. They seemed to have no sense of story at all. No fairy tales for kids, no legends. That was pretty weird. They did have technology though; the closest thing they had to a TV was a sort of hologram box, which was like a talking 3D monochrome bust of a person behind glass. Only adults seemed to use it, so I guess that was either a sort of news broadcasting thing or perhaps a two-way communication device.

They didn’t seem to have any over-arching governments that I could sense; at the very least it didn’t seem to concern the everyday lives of anybody. They had people who lived by themselves away from everyone else, then small collections of people in villages, and then the largest communities were cities. But there were no real “streets” because there were no cars or even horses, and even the cities were compact and uncrowded enough that you could walk to anywhere you wanted. And the cities were largely unpaved, so you still had a bunch of trees and grass outside. The cities did have some very tall buildings, but nothing like a skyscraper or even an office building. It was all colorful and all seemed to be made of wood or stone; no steel or concrete. And, like their clothes, everything was very colorful. They definitely seemed to be hypersensitive to color, like everything had to be colorfully pleasing to the eye. There weren’t any signs, much less any advertising. In this world, we put pictures and brand logos and writing all over everything, and everything gets to looking very cluttered. None of that here. I wonder if they used colors to code things and I just didn’t notice, since they didn’t even have signs with writing to let you know what buildings were what.

Before you entered any village or city, they had prayer stations at which you were expected to pray. I am not sure what their religion was and other than these prayer stations I didn’t get much sense of a religion. But you were expected to pray for the place you were about to enter and respect it and offer something of yourself to the community, even if it was just your kindness. Like they didn’t want you to enter anywhere with a negative spirit.

They had huge trains which ran from city to city. These huge trains were like hotels, you had your own room in them, and they ran between four tracks, one on each corner of the connected box-like “rooms”. I was sharing a room with some other “travelers” from earth. I only took the train once, but the journey took like a day and a half. And someone stole some of toys I had been given earlier (which were like LEGOs, little building blocks, and they did seem to have an obsession with building; not just building in general, but building things to look beautiful and to go with the shapes of the land, to compliment the land, not to conquer it). I told a “security guard” or “peace keeper” on the train that my blocks had been stolen, but they just told me that I had to take care of my own belongings, so they didn’t seem to care much. But I spent much of the rest of the trip trying to figure out who had stolen them (we had had visitors to our room that the other travelers were talking to).

Aside from stealing, I saw no crimes. I didn’t even hear an unkind word said to anyone or about anyone.

Oh, and the buildings didn’t have electric lights in them (they didn’t seem to have electricity, at least not as we use it with wires and such), nor did they have lanterns or candles (I don’t recall seeing any fire at all, or lightning in a storm for that matter). During the day, sunlight would pour in through high windows and reflect around the ceiling and some give light to everything. That said, I don’t remember there being any lights at night either, but I could clearly see. I wonder if they were simply equipped with much better eyes that could see well in low light.

Aside from colors (although they made no pictures or paintings) and architecture, they were also obsessed with music. Although they didn’t really have speakers, rather it would reverberate through the walls or something; I never really understood where it came from, and I never saw any instruments (and no one ever sang) but there was a lot of music all over. And it was usually very gentle peaceful harmonic music, very atmospheric, nothing like heavy metal or pop music. (No drums or cymbals for that matter.) Maybe the brains of those bodies just hallucinated music all the time? Nobody ever danced to it.

They had only one kind of pet that I saw (I’m not sure how much of the world I actually got to see); those pets were almost like big dogs with horse-like hair running along their backs. And although they scratched and pet these animals, they didn’t really play with them much. Rather the animals were very smart and performed a lot of chores for the people, fetching things and stuff, but they jumped around a lot and loved attention, so much so that the people normally kept them out of the room if they needed to focus on something else.

Though there was not much crime (besides the occasional stealing), the biggest crime seemed to be laziness. I’m not exactly sure how the economy worked, but you were expected to work, at least if you were an adult. If you didn’t work, you were to be shamed. The shaming of others seemed to be the only punishment, but I guess it worked. Being lazy and not contributing something useful to society was very poorly looked upon.

Also, although I didn’t get a sense of much religion, there was a lot of emphasis put on controlling your own emotions, I guess like mindfulness. Adults and children alike were constantly reminded to separate themselves from their negative emotions; you didn’t necessarily have to stop feeling your negative emotions, but you were encouraged to not let them take you over. You were encouraged to be in charge of your emotions.

Overall, I got the sense that this world I was visiting was more spiritually evolved than ours, hence why earthers, such as myself, would visit there. They, on the other hand, would likely learn nothing from visiting earth, as we’re still in the “preschool” of the spiritual universe. They were perhaps more like in “middle school” or “high school”.

Near the end of my visit there, my fellow earthers and I were invited to a school whose teachers and students were the only ones that could somehow tell we were actually visitors from another realm. I’m not sure if education was compulsory there, but at the very least it seemed very stress free and “open”; although adults were in charge, children had a lot of freedom; you could get up and walk around at leisure. There didn’t seem to be much in the way of lecturing, rather “classes” (which did not seem to be organized around any one particular topic at once) were like open conversations, sometimes with children taking notes to answer questions or practice problems. I remember learning some math and translating it in my head to how we would express the same math in our world, and being somewhat confused by how they did it.

Anyway, somehow I could tell my time in that world was coming to an end just as a “test day” was upon us. They had some kind of weird paper at the school where they would hand out tests (which were somehow individualized for each student) and answers could be submitted through the paper. But the paper was still cheap enough that you could rip it up and throw it away. Still, you never needed to hand your paper in, you just needed to say that you were done and the teacher would somehow collect your answers. Maybe the pens kept track of how they moved or they took a picture from somewhere? I don’t know. But somehow the writing on the paper would disappear and the teacher would have your answers.

I kept failing my tests. Everything kept confusing me and the teachers would laugh and give me an easier one. Like there was no real pressure. And we were all allowed to talk and eat during the tests. It was very “open”, almost like a game, although the teachers were still careful to not let anyone cheat, although none of the students seemed to have any desire to anyway, I guess since there were no real punishments for doing poorly.

After I kept on failing different subjects, they finally just gave me one question: “What do you hope to remember the most about visiting this world?” Ironically, I forgot my answer, but it had something to do with emotional control, since they had put so much emphasis on it and it felt so peaceful there. I remember going back over in my head a bunch of things I wanted to remember, even though I forgot most of it. I wanted to remember how long I had been there (two weeks), I wanted to remember the dog-like pets because I thought they were so much fun, I wanted to remember the name of the place (so I could find my fellow dream travelers in this world, although I don’t know if they were even from the same earth time, if they conform to “earth real” at all) but I forgot it. Strangely enough, I remember knowing I would forget most of it because I somehow understood something about how the brain and consciousness works. It was like consciousness was at a higher frequency there, so I understood that very few thoughts and experiences there could be “translated” back to an earth brain. But the visit was still good for the “soul journey” or something.

And then I remember being a bit sad to leave because I had made friends there that I knew I would never see again (in this life anyway) and it was so beautiful and peaceful there, this world is such a cluttered mess by comparison, both visually (brands and marketing and writing everywhere!) and emotionally. At the same time, I was a bit homesick, and I wanted to see other humans again and even our pet cats for that matter. For a moment I was a bit worried about how the journey back would happen; it had been two weeks, surely a lot of earth time had passed, would I wake up in a coma? And how would it feel? Would it be uncomfortable?

Ultimately it felt like nothing. I was standing beside the teachers and students waving goodbye and then I opened my eyes and thought, “just a simple one-night dream, of course”. And “wow, that was extremely weird.”

I then rolled over and went back to sleep and had another “sequel” dream where I visited an old lady who knew who I was and specialized in helping dream travelers get back to earth. She told me that I didn’t really need her, that all my earth memories were fine (I’d already woken up after all), but I was welcome to stay and look around her place, which was filled with earth stuff. She did have one weird device that was shaped like a pinball machine, but when you look into it you see bits of your own memory reflected back at you, and I mostly just saw frogs and turtles. Otherwise she had a TV, a radio, a record player, electric lights, books, etc. A lot of earth stuff that had been missing from that other world. I didn’t spend long there, I just explored the place a bit and then woke up again.

So that was my ultra-weird dream. Definitely wanted to have a record of it.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Business

Y Combinator

Y Combinator looks like something I’d really like to do. Looks like it would be perfect for the symphony generator app I’ve been working on. As they say on their site:

Twice a year we invest a small amount of money ($120k) in a large number of startups.

The startups move to Silicon Valley for 3 months, during which we work intensively with them to get the company into the best possible shape and refine their pitch to investors. Each cycle culminates in Demo Day, when the startups present their companies to a carefully selected, invite-only audience.

The deadline for their upcoming Winter 2019 cycle is October 2nd, less than two months away. Unfortunately I’m not so sure I can finish a working prototype by then. Worth a try though. Might have to wait until their next cycle after that. Regardless, this looks like something to aim for!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Programming

GUI programming drags on for third week

Checking off some items from the to-do list mentioned in my previous post, my OpenGL GUI panels can now have rounded corners (although they still need a bit of work as they’re not quite as circular as I’d like), they can have shadows of arbitrary size and color, they can have linear and radial gradient coloring, and the text dynamically word-wraps as necessary, with the scroll bar appearing only when needed.

Ain’t that nice? Next I need to work on vertical resizing and making sure multiple panels will overlap correctly when on the screen; a panel should be brought to the front “layer” when clicked on.

Then I will move on to adding the GUI elements I mentioned in the last post.

A fellow programmer on twitch mentioned a GUI library for LWJGL the he had programmed called legui. Looks quite nice so I might play around with it and see if I can integrate any of it with my panels. Another advantage of streaming on twitch: meeting other programmers and discovering new things!

(P.S. I don’t really know if this is my third week of working on it or not, but it’s probably around there. The title of this post is a reference to a film in which people carry in the banner.)

By S P Hannifin, ago
Programming

My GUI programming efforts continue

I’ve been continuing my efforts to program a custom simple 2D/3D engine in Java with OpenGL with which to create a more user-friendly standalone version of my MIDI animator (and hopefully some games in the future). Lately I’ve been focusing on creating a GUI system. In terms of free open-source 3D engines in Java, I don’t much like most of the GUI implementations, so creating my own has been fun. Granted, I still run in to bugs that are tricky to fix while trying to accomplish relatively simple things, but trying to solve such problems is educational and always a bit addicting, like solving a puzzle, especially as I’m doing it for myself.

So here’s my latest progress update. I’ve settled on using STBTT (included in lwjgl) font rendering for the GUI text and the underutilized Nvidia path rendering (included in OpenGL in general) for the panels (and hopefully more in the future, including possible note shapes in the actual MIDI animator). The panels are movable and can contain an arbitrary amount of word-wrapped text. You can scroll through the text, and the panel can include a y-axis scrollbar of arbitrary size. You’ll also notice that the text fades in and out at the top and bottom, a nice little touch in my opinion that I probably spent too long programming:

I’ve also been streaming my programming efforts on twitch, which is also addicting. It turns what is usually a pretty solitary activity into something at least a little more social, and it’s fun watching the viewer count tick up now and then. Shout out to twitch user Subtixx who has even offered helpful points and advice allowing me to fix problems my eyes don’t catch (such as null-checking the darn scrollbar!); many thanks Subtixx!

My current to-do list includes (but is not limited to):

  • allow gradient coloring on the panels and text
  • allow rounded corners on the panels
  • allow panels to have shadows (render a semi-transparent panel behind)
  • allow panels to be resized dynamically
  • allow panels to be closed (and maybe shrunk?)
  • allow panels to contain some select common GUI elements, such as:
    • buttons
    • text fields (short and long)
    • radio buttons
    • check boxes
    • sliders (continuous and quantified)
    • menus (pop-up and drop-down)
    • tabs on the top or side of panels (which perhaps are just specialized buttons?)

So there’s still quite a bit to do. But I must do it, for this is my quest.


In other unrelated news, a 4th album from symphonic / power metal band Ancient Bards is finally happening! I love this band and I can’t wait for their new album!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Computer games

Little Nightmares

Hey, look! I finally updated this blog’s theme! I think I like it better. Might do some more experimenting with the font, but this should work for now.

Anyway, I’ve been enjoying streaming on Twitch, and I recently finished playing the PC game Little Nightmares, a small little adventure game with a nice creepy atmosphere. It doesn’t take long to beat. My first time playing through, it took my a bit over 4 hours. Rushing through it a second time, I was able to speed through it in 1.5 hours, which I recorded for my records, because I’m sure I will want to go back and watch myself playing twenty or so years from now:

Isn’t that interesting?!

For now, I’ve moved on to playing the bright cheery anime-ish RPG Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom, which is perhaps meant for a younger audience with its super happy cheerfulness and ridiculously simple portrayal of monarchy establishment, but I must admit that I do love the art and style of the game with its amazingly beautiful cel-shading, and Joe Hisaishi’s orchestral score is fantastic, quite on par with his Studio Ghibli work. I wish they’d port the original Ni No Kuni game for PC, as I don’t have a PS3 and probably won’t be buying one anytime soon.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Computer games

Twitch

Although I can’t even remember when I created a twitch account, I never actually tried streaming from it until this week, streaming a bit of a creepy puzzle / adventure game called Little Nightmares. Here’s my twitch account. And here’s an attempt at embedding the channel:

Watch live video from seanthebest on www.twitch.tv

Probably won’t actually use it much, as I don’t play video games as much as I’d like to, but as I finally have a graphics card capable of streaming, I might as well use it. Maybe I’ll stream some coding sometime as well, because that’s always really exciting.

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

Update on random happenings…

Haven’t blogged in a while, so I thought I’d blather a bit about what I’m up to.

I can has focus?

I lamented on twitter not long ago that my lack of creative focus probably severely decreases my chance of making significant (money-making) progress in my creative endeavors. Rectifying this is easier said than done. My creative interests include writing fiction (fantasy mostly), composing music, and programming (programming stuff I’m interested in, that is, not freelance work, which is boring). I’m guessing that making decent progress in one area (the sort of progress that would lead to substantial income) likely necessitates giving up the other two for at least some extended period of time. Each creative endeavor includes its own pros and cons in terms the money-making challenges it presents. In fact, let’s make a quick graph as we reflect on what these pros and cons might be…

EndeavorProsCons
Writing fiction• Fun to do
• Can be done just about anywhere with a notebook and pen; not restricted to needing a computer
• Lots of competition
• Takes time to build a significant audience
• Time investment to create a product can be several months
Composing music• Instantly rewarding
• Takes the least amount of time to finish a "product" (a track of music)
• Lots of competition
• Takes time to build a significant audience or client list
Programming• Potential to make quite a lot of $$$ with the right product
• Low competition for innovative products
• Time investment is very high and hard to predict (could be months or even years)
• Can be very frustrating to fix bugs

So which endeavor to choose? I’m leaning towards music, but whichever I choose (if I’m even able to do so), it will be a torture to totally give up the other two, even if it’s only temporarily.

Out of curiosity…

Which endeavor would you choose?

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Writing fiction

I haven’t done any significant writing in a good long while. I’ve completely plotted several stories, and I’ve written several opening chapters, but I keep getting bored and abandoning projects. One could easily chide, “You’re supposed to stick with it, even if it’s boring!” Pshaw, I say unto you! In my opinion, if writing something is boring, then it’s a good sign you shouldn’t be writing it in the first place. Being bored completely defeats the purpose of such a creative act. If you’re bored writing it, why should a reader have any interest in it?

I kept thinking my getting bored had something to do with finding the right personal balance between plotting and pantsing, but as I reflect on why writing SON OF A DARK WIZARD managed to work for me, I believe it has more to do with how interesting I find the characters. Sorren in SON OF A DARK WIZARD, who was an arrogant brat wizard, was just insanely fun to write. So with whatever I write next, I really need to focus on making the character as interesting (for me) as possible. Of course, it’s not necessarily easy to do that. It managed to fall into place quite well for Sorren, but it isn’t obvious to me how to make a more virtuous character deeper than cardboard. Anyway, it’s something I’ll have to think more about before beginning a new draft. I have several more story ideas that I’m eager to get working on, but I want to make sure the main character really comes alive for me before I dive in.

Also, since I really don’t have much of an audience yet, I was thinking of posting my next story for free (at least temporarily) on Wattpad as I write it. That might not help much in building an audience, but it feels better than just sitting on it until I indie-pub the book. By the way, although the sequel to SON OF A DARK WIZARD has been mostly plotted for a couple years now, I don’t have the funds to pay for another cover at the level of professionalism of the first book’s cover, and I really don’t want to publish it with a cover of inconsistent quality, hence why I’m holding off on working on the sequel for now. (If you’d like to donate, let’s say, $2,000 for a cover, I’ll happily get to work on it and dedicate the book to you.)

Composing music

I’ve got several tracks in the works, and I know that I owe my Patreon subscribers 12 tracks for the six months they’ve been charged without me delivering anything! (I’ve been trying to pause donations each month, but I sometimes forget.) I am definitely committed to delivering these tracks, though as usual I can’t promise when. Life just feels very hectic right now and I don’t seem to be in a position to set a good schedule for myself, much less follow it with any amount of discipline. (This is also a deterrent to my inability to make progress in my competing creative endeavors, but one that I’m not sure I can do much about at the moment; I would need the support of other family members, and unfortunately I don’t think I’m in a position to request or enforce that.)

Programming

I’m still working on that more user-friendly MIDI animator that I blogged about earlier this year; I kinda wanna finish this, at least to some degree, before I get back to composing.

And other stuff…

Other than that, I’ve been particularly interested in math lately for some unknown reason. More specifically, I’m fascinated by the human “creation” of math. That is, how do we as humans psychologically come up with math? Euler’s formula, along with the entire idea of complex numbers (imaginary numbers), are particularly fascinating. I understand how to work with them and all that; I understand the concept. What I don’t understand is: how did Euler and mathematicians of old even come up with this concept? It doesn’t feel at all intuitive. If you think about it, Euler’s formula is an implication of the definition of complex numbers more than a “discovery”, but how did mathematicians come up with this “rotational” definition of raising numbers to the power of complex numbers? It boggles my mind. And what does it mean? That is, it’s obvious what most numbers mean even without a context, such as 2 or -3. But what does i mean? (Beyond merely sqrt(-1), which is obvious.) I’m not sure. Yet, it’s useful. Anyway, I yearn to have a deeper understanding of it, and of how mathematicians “create” (or “discover”) math in general.

Well, that’s all for now. Maybe I’ll try blogging a bit more often. I’ve been meaning to for while. I still haven’t posted a “Year’s Best” for 2017. I also hope to post another “composer’s analysis” of the last track I uploaded to YouTube, Moonwish. I’d also like to post about why Cantor’s ideas of magnitudes infinities is useless and wrong, my new(ish) understanding of the second law of thermodynamics (I think “disorder” is the wrong word, for those definitions that use it), and some interesting thoughts about DNA… but all that for another day. Later, my dear readers.

By S P Hannifin, ago