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
My life

Happy New Year! Plans for 2018…

I haven’t blogged in months! I think that might be the longest I’ve gone without blogging in 10 years. 2017 was a quiet year for this blog; I only managed to write 11 posts, including this one. How terrible! The world needs more of my blather!

I would do a “year in review” sort of thing, but I really didn’t do much worth mentioning. Definitely not much creatively. I’ve stayed busy with other sorts of work, and have not been on my computer nearly as much as usual.

Anyway, here are some hopes and dreams for 2018:

  • Compose some more music. I’ve got lots of melodies and ideas to flesh out, and it’d be nice to finish my third full-length album.
  • Program some synth instruments. I started doing some sound programming in Java earlier this year. So far all I’ve got is a program that plays a sine wave with varying levels of vibrato. I’m really just playing around, not really going for anything serious, but I think it’d be neat to see if I can create some interesting sounds and use them in a piece.
  • Program a video game. This has been a pipe dream for a long time now, but I still want to do it. I still want to create that little mystery adventure game. I’ve still gotta figure out a way to make it visually appealing without needing artistic skills.
  • Program a 3D engine? Just for fun, and to better understand how they work, I’d really like to try programming my own very basic 3D engine. Nothing advanced; I would just like to play around with the basics of rendering and break stuff on purpose for fun!
  • Finish writing at least one more novel. I started writing a handful of novels this year. I’d like to actually finish one and publish it.
  • Write a non-fiction book? If I can think of an interesting subject, might be fun to try writing a non-fiction book.
  • Play video games, watch movies, and read more books! Because this will help me build character….
  • Pay off debts. If I can be financially disciplined enough, it’d be nice to pay off some debt. But I still need to buy a PSVR, so, you know… priorities.

That’s all I can think of for now. I’ll probably try to blog a bit more often too. It helps me think.

Happy New Year to all! Hope everyone has a great 2018!

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

Confession of a metaphysical experience

Here’s a weird post for you. Not sure if this will mean anything to anybody, but I can assure you that it’s true. And I really don’t care if you believe it or not.

On the night of September 3rd, 2012, I had a profound experience.

I won’t bother explaining how I got there, because that’s even weirder and I don’t really understand it myself.

But I passed through a portal of some sort. (This was a very ineffable experience, so it’s pretty much impossible to find words to describe it, so a lot of these words should be understood as approximations more than anything else.) Through this portal, I saw and experienced my true self. I want to say the true self is love. But love as it is experienced in this world is like a drop of water; there it is more immense than an ocean. Still, love is the closest word. It is infinite and completely fulfilling. Somehow, existence is “pure” there. That’s the best word I can think of; it’s pure. The core of your being, of your true self, is pure.

I was able to see my connection with the universe. This is a profound thing to see. It was nothing visual; it was an innate understanding, obvious yet profound. I saw that I was an essential part of the universe, part of God Himself, as are all people. You hear the idea that “we are one” or “we are all part of each other” in many philosophies. But it’s hard to see and understand in this world because we have separate bodies and minds. There, your connection to all things is obvious, profound, and beautiful.

If you have ever been with a great group of friends or family, and you feel like you have a place among them, like you belong, and you don’t feel superior or inferior to anyone in the group; it is like that only multiplied by infinity. The feeling of being “at home”, the feeling of “belonging” is infinite. It is because you can feel and understand your connection with the universe and understand that you are an essential part; not better or worse than any other part; you are not comparing yourself to anything; but you are essential.

I remember thinking to myself, “Of course I feel at home here, I know who I am here.” But even those words hardly communicate the profoundness of it.

And this love that makes up the core of your being, your life essence, somehow flows, or vibrates; it is alive itself. You can feel it flowing through the core of your being and through all the universe. It is what connects you to all things. It is living itself and is giving you your existence; you cannot exist without it. I know, it sounds bizarre; it is pretty impossible to describe.

Negative emotions of any sort are impossible there. You cannot be embarrassed about anything. You cannot feel insecure. How your body looked, what worldly success you achieved, it’s all completely insignificant. You cannot be ashamed of anything. You cannot regret anything. You do not long for anything. You cannot be afraid. You are completely fulfilled.

One of the most surprising and profound things I realized is that you cannot be bored there. Every moment of existing is so vibrantly alive and somehow new. It is like every moment is as fresh as being newly born.

I can’t even fathom it in this world. In this world, we have to be doing something or we’ll get bored. We constantly have to find things to stimulate our brains. We have to keep moving. Even when we’re happy, it’s a fleeting happiness and we eventually grow tired and have to move on to the next thing.

There, existing in and of itself is a completely different experience. There is no boredom. You don’t have to be doing anything, and yet you cannot be bored. It doesn’t make any sense in this world. I remember experiencing it and yet I can’t rationally comprehend it. But there it is. You cannot be bored.

There are no negative emotions. So even if you had the worst life imaginable, even if you lived in prison camps your entire life and watched while your entire family was tortured to death, nothing can take even a grain of sand away from that experience; the fulfillment is infinite and pure. No negative emotions. Not that you forget bad things or forget what negative emotions are; it is simply impossible to experience them.

In a way, it felt like I was only there for a few seconds, and yet the experience seemed so large that it felt like longer. As I said, every moment felt like new, so there’s no way to describe time. (The experience may have been more profound if I had actually thought about time while I was there, but I did not.)

Anyway, in the end, I somehow “fell away” from the experience and was back in the world, or back in my body, or back to being aware that I was in a body, or whatever. I’m pretty sure I didn’t die, I don’t think I have anything to die of, but I certainly know the experience was metaphysical. It’s impossible for the brain to experience that. When you experience something like that, you just know that it’s not something the brain can do; the brain simply cannot experience that sort of infiniteness. If it could, we would all just die, because we’d be infinitely fulfilled; we’d just lie down with no reason to move and we’d all just die. Of course, one of my first thoughts after the experience was thinking, “Maybe that was just a dream.” But that immediately didn’t make any sense. It was too pure to be a dream; it was even more profoundly real than this life. I know that doesn’t make any sense from the perspective of this life, but you just know it innately when you experience it.

I don’t know why I had the experience or what it was all about. It wasn’t Heaven, though perhaps it was a glimpse of how the self is experienced in Heaven. I didn’t talk to God or angels or anything, I didn’t see the future or the past, I didn’t even really see anything visually beautiful; it was all sort of inner-self-sense stuff. In some ways, it’s frustrating, because not only do I long to experience it again, I also wish I had answers about it!

I’m not sure why I’m sharing this now, since it happened over a year ago. And I’ve always believed in God, so it’s not like the experience converted any of my religious beliefs or anything, though it certainly deepened them. I wasn’t sure whether or not I’d ever share this at all because it’s probably hard to relate to and probably makes me sound a bit crazy. But, for some reason, I want to. I mean, it was an awesome experience.

I think the most profound things I received from the experience was, firstly, the realization that we are all intimately and profoundly connected to God, and to each other through God; God Himself flows through the very core of our being and gives us life; our life source is God; our creation happens at every moment. And secondly, the revelation of what it’s like to experience no negative emotions, including even the trivial negative emotion of boredom; that all pain in this life is temporary and that we are all profoundly essential to the universe, regardless of the ways in which we think about ourselves or compare ourselves to each other in this life.

Hope this is interesting to someone out there and doesn’t make me sound too crazy. (Or, if you already think I’m crazy, now you have another clue as to why.)

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

Peering over the Cliffs of Insanity

I will confess: my Animation Mentor classes have not been going well. They haven’t been going awfully, but my work is struggling. I’ve been in an anxious panic mode lately because I’m afraid my work is not going to be nearly good enough to send out to studios. But anxious panic mode only makes the work worse; it makes me work slower and more anxiously. It makes animating anything an awful tedious chore, when it should be fun and interesting. While animating, my mind focuses on other things I’d like to do: watch a movie, play a game, compose music, work on my novel, work on my cartoon series pitch, work on my melody generator, etc. Things I just hardly have any time to do… and when I do have time to do them, I do them knowing I’m eating into animation time.

I won’t complain too much about my job; it’s provided me the money for tuition to learn animation in first place. But it’s the sort of job that can really drive you mad because you can’t really concentrate on anything. And I think most human minds cherish the ability to concentrate on something; to really get lost in a project. Even mopping a floor is a nicer job when your thoughts don’t have to be interrupted every ten seconds. And having your thoughts consistently interrupted mentally wears you down, so you don’t have as much drive or energy to do anything later on when you do have time. It would also be nice if I had more regular hours. As it is now, I can’t get into any sort of routine. It’s mornings these days, evenings these days, weekends these days. Blagh!

And then there’s the Animation Mentor graduation in California. Part of me thinks it would still be fun to go, but another part of me isn’t sure it’s worth the trouble, time, and money. I have yet to get to know any classmates as well as I would like; certainly not enough for a trip out to California to seem like something I must do. I’d rather save my money and try to get a pitch meeting for my cartoon series idea…

Anyway, fortunately, so I don’t completely fail out of Animation Mentor and/or go completely insane, I’ll be taking a leave-of-absence for at least a month and a half (maybe more?), starting two weeks from today. I can’t wait to have all that extra time to put into animation and polishing my shots. And hopefully the time and energy to pursue my other creative endeavors.

While I look forward to the leave, it makes these last two weeks of work complete torture. It’s like the last days of school before summer vacation — the mind can concentrate on little else besides the presumed luxury of the impending freedom.

In other news, I rewrote my novelette from 2009 called Dreamgiver, which is now out on submission.

I also caught site of this: Strange Chemistry Open Door 2012. A pro publisher accepting submissions from unagented authors? Definitely looks interesting. They’ll be accepting submissions during the last half of April 2012. So last week I posted on Facebook a request for first readers and sent the first half of my novel-in-progress Moonrise Ink out to five or six friends. My hope is to use their feedback to help me finish the book, then rewrite the portions of it that will need rewriting, and I’m pretty confident I’ll have a draft finished by April so that I can try submitting it. That doesn’t leave as much time for editing as I would like, but I think it may still be worth a shot.

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

Goals for 2012

2012 should be an exciting year. I should finish with Animation Mentor in March, and should be able to dedicate the rest of the year to searching for a job. It’s pretty exciting to think that I have no idea where I might end up, though I suppose there’s always the possibility that I get nowhere. (He who expects nothing shall never be disappointed.) I don’t know what the job market is like or how tough the competition will be.

I should also be going to California sometime in 2012 to attend Animation Mentor’s graduation ceremony, whenever that is. That should definitely be an exciting trip since I haven’t taken a real trip since I went with my family to Disney World in 2001, when I was a freshman in high school. (I wouldn’t say that weddings and funerals in our neighboring state count as real “trips”.) I’ve also never been that far to the west before. (I used to live in Alaska, but I was only two or three years old at the time and remember none of it, so I don’t think that counts.)

OK, so here are my goals for 2012, written in second person:

1. Finish writing The Boy in the Sword (novelette) and submit it
2. Finish editing Dreamgiver (novelette) and submit it
3. Finish playing all the video games you started
4. Finish writing fantasy novel, plan and start writing next novel (The Melody Box maybe?)
5. Edit fantasy novel, get feedback from first-readers, and submit to agents
6. Work on designing video game(s)
7. Read 10 fiction books and 10 non-fiction books
8. Finish Animation Mentor and attend graduation in California!
9. Finish cartoon pitch and pitch it to studios… in California!
10. Get an animation job… in California! (or anywhere)
11. Listen to 100 classical music albums
12. Watch 200 movies that you’ve never seen before
13. Release an update to your Melody Generator for Android

I doubt I’ll listen to that much music or watch that many movies or even read that many books, but oh well. They’re on the list.

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

My 2011 in review

For the most part, this was The Year of Animation Mentor. Between going to work and doing Animation Mentor work, I had very little time for much else. But I did take a leave of absence in the spring to prevent myself from going completely crazy, and used that time to finish creating my Melody Generator for Android, which is the best melody generator in the world.

Every December I write out my goals for the year ahead. I’m still not very good at keeping things realistic, and I tend to change my mind about my desires. Anyway, let’s look back on my 2011 goals and see how badly I did. A lot of the goals I knew were unrealistic anyway.

1. Do good work for Animation Mentor – and graduate!

Well, I didn’t graduate since I took the leave of absence, but I’m prepared for my final semester when the new year begins. I should finish in March 2012, leaving the rest of the year for a much more interesting job search than my previous boring Computer Science degree allowed.

2. Learn to model an environment in Blender

Yeah, I kinda lost interest in Blender. I’m still interested in it, really, I’m just interested in other things more. I’ll keep my books on it, though. I might use it yet.

3. Learn to model and animate a character in Blender

Same as above.

4. Continue trying to sell screenplay The Melody Box

I did for a little while. I think I will try turning the story into a novel in 2012.

5. Write a “listening guide” companion to my album

Never did that. Might in 2012, but probably won’t. I’m not sure there’s any interest, and I’m too interested in other stuff.

6. Finish writing a novel – and finish planning another

Still haven’t achieved this one. But I’m continuing to work on it.

7. Finish writing 15 short stories

Yeah right.

8. Listen to the complete works of Mozart

Too busy doing other stuff.

9. Listen to 100 other pieces of classical music

I wish.

10. Read 25 fiction books, 25 non-fiction books, and 300 short stories

Ha! I’ve gotten so little reading done this year, it’s terrible. Only 2 or 3 books I think. But I did buy a bunch of books when Borders went out of business. I should have more time in 2012 as I finish up with Animation Mentor.

11. Practice drawing for 100 hours

I got a few hours of practice in, but nowhere near 100. That’ll never happen.

12. Play video games for 100 hours (I can dream, yes?)

Dream dream dream…

13. Watch lots of movies and TV shows… to study story structure (“Save the Cat” style)

Define “lots”…

14. Spend as little money as possible… save it for a 2012 vacation!

Animation Mentor took most of my money (which I’m happy to pay; getting professional advice and critiques from such top-notch working animators from the big studios is worth it). Fortunately I just recently paid tuition for the last Animation Mentor semester, so until my California trip, or until I move out (what?), my savings should only go up.

2011 was also the year of family deaths, unfortunately. We lost two grandparents and the family dog. That was not so fun. Seems a lot of people I know also lost relatives.

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

One of the worst parts…

It’s so sad how your dog’s death doesn’t really sink in to your subconscious very well, and you still have quick automatic thoughts about her…

Where’s the dog’s food bowl? Oh wait.

Is the dog outside? Oh wait.

I should probably get out of bed and let the dog out. Oh wait.

What was that noise? Just the dog. Oh wait.

GAH. It’s awful.

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

Patches

We had to put our fourteen year old family dog to sleep on Monday evening.  The house won’t be quite the same without her.  Rest in peace, Patches.

patches

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

Animation Mentor class 4 almost over… and the airship…

It’s week 12 of class 4 of Animation Mentor, the final week. There are no animation assignments the final week, so maybe I’ll have a bit more free time this week for novel writing, but I probably will try to touch up my last assignment a bit more since it will probably go on my first demo reel. I’ll upload my last assignment tonight after it finishes rendering; I’m rendering it at an HD resolution with motion blur, which takes about 6-7 minutes per frame, and there are 195 frames. Takes a while. But it should finally be done by the time I get off work today. I think my animation is definitely getting better, though I still need more practice. I’ll probably save my animation job searching until Animation Mentor ends (for me) in March 2012.

I didn’t write anything at all over the weekend. It was dedicated to working on my animation homework, and then just to reading and napping on Sunday afternoon, after I turned in my animation homework.

I didn’t write anything this past Friday either, but I did draw some maps of the layout of the five-story airship that’s about to appear in the novel, which was fun. Perhaps my future house will be based on it. OK, maybe not, but it has some cool features, such as a two-story library with a glass ceiling (good for exposition, when the characters need to research history or something, which won’t really be that important until later novels in the series, if I stick with this story), the helm is located in front of a huge 3-story wall of glass (though it can also be elevated to the top of the ship if the Second Captain (who is the main ship steerer) would rather be outside for some reason). The airship has air-conditioning, a water-recycling system, and an intercom system (anything is possible with a magic system, right?), as well as voice pipes (kinda like phones, used to communicate with the castle and other ships, which is very important during airship sky battles; these may play a very important role in a future story, I have some fun ideas).

Anyway, should be fun to write about; hopefully I can refrain from getting into too much exposition. It’s always fun for the author, but it can bore readers.

By S P Hannifin, ago
My life

September 2011

A few things to look forward to in September 2011:

September 16th – Disney’s The Lion King returns to theaters in 3D for a limited time. I definitely hope I get the chance to see it. I think I blogged about seeing the 3D trailer before Cars 2. Some shots looked nice, but the character close-ups looked funky, as if they just “bubbled” the 2D images. But I still want to see it in its entirety.

September 16th – Class 4 (Intro to Acting) of Animation Mentor ends! If animation is this hard, do I really want to do it for a living? Yes, definitely. Will I be good enough to get a job after Animation Mentor? I guess we’ll see. After this class ends, we’ll have a 1-week break from classes, then Class 5.

September 20th – Neal Stephenson’s new novel Reamde comes out. So far, the only other book by Stephenson I’ve read has been Anathem, but it was fantastic; easily one of the best sci-fi books I’ve ever read (not that I’m all that well-read). The world was rich, and the characters’ philosophical discussions were so much more captivating than most authors tend to manage. So I’m really looking forward to reading his new book. I’ll try to finish reading The Wise Man’s Fear by then, but if I don’t I will have to temporarily abandon it for Reamde.

September 26th – Class 5 of Animation Mentor starts – Advanced Acting. Will go on for 12 weeks until December 16th, filling out most of the rest of 2011. (The last class will start in 2012.)

By S P Hannifin, ago