Haven’t updated my “Year’s Best” for a few years now… to catch up, I’m only going to do movies, so here are my favorite live-action and animated films from the past few years. I have really good taste, I think you’ll agree:
Our 20 year old cat passed away on my lap at 1:47 AM today, January 8, 2020. She’d been in declining health for a while, but went down hill very quickly at the end; she had a vet appointment later this week and seemed like she’d last at least until then. But she suddenly lost the strength to even stand up and was gone hours later. RIP Nellie, 1999-2020.
As promised, here’s my attempted solution to the Collatz Conjecture. My solution is pretty simple, so if you understand the conjecture, you should understand the proof. (I’m not a pro mathematician anyway, just an amateur hobbyist.) I’m eager to get feedback, especially if I somehow missed something subtle (or worse, something really stupid).
I’ve been tinkering with the Collatz Conjecture on and off for a couple years; it’s madly addicting, patterns within patterns within patterns, and yet strange and puzzling disorder seems to lurk around every corner.
I have an attempted proof which I’ll type up and post hopefully this week along with a video, unless I find some glaring mistake while doing so. And then I can get back to programming.
Y Combinator’s latest Startup School session ended this week. I still haven’t gotten nearly as far as I would have liked in TuneSage’s development, but I did make some progress, and I’m hoping to launch it near the end of next month. Of course, that prediction is probably still off, since it feels impossible to predict, but I did submit an application to Y Combinator’s core program, so the sooner I can launch it the better. If they’re looking at my application and can find no demo videos or samples online demonstrating what TuneSage can do, so much the worse for me.
Anyway, here are some of the biggest things I’ve learned from this year’s startup school:
Launch your product as soon as you can. The initial version doesn’t have to be as polished as you might imagine. They talk quite a bit about launching an MVP, a “minimal viable product”. This allows you to start getting feedback from early adopters. Handling the initial version of your product like a manuscript submission or a film premiere that needs to attract a crowd upon release isn’t the right way to think about a tech startup launch; the initial version won’t be polished. (For TuneSage, the initial version will likely only generate melodies and chords.)
After launching, it’s all about growth, and organic growth at that. Pay attention to new users you’re attracting, user retention, and how users are using your product. (Paying to advertise your product isn’t a great idea because having to pay to obtain your first customers isn’t going to scale, and may throw off any traction metrics.) Decide what to work on based on how it will stimulate growth.
Set concrete goals (preferably having to do with growth) so that you know whether or not what you’re working on is having the desired affect.
I’ll admit that some of the finance stuff (stock, shareholding, vesting, etc.) is still a bit over my head; some of it is just lingo to learn, but I also think I need to see more examples of it in action.
The Startup School videos are on YouTube, available for anyone to watch (I’m sure I’ll re-watch some of them), but participating in the course also gave me an opportunity to have weekly meetings with other founders. This allowed me to develop my “pitch” and get real feedback. I will admit that I need to get better at talking. A bit too much repeating myself, ending sentences on conjunctions (“and, yeah…”), forgetting words and stammering. Sometimes I wasn’t so bad, but it’s definitely something to practice. And, yeah…
Overall, it was a great experience, and I’m excited to get TuneSage up to a launch-able state. Like I said, I wish I had made more progress during Startup School itself, but I should have more time next month.
It’s just a temporary page. One can sign up for the mailing list, but until I start actually releasing sample work or something, it’s probably not good for much. Better than nothing, though.
I have no idea what the look and feel of the final site will be; I am not a graphic designer. However, I really like the font I found for the title. I was originally trying to reuse the letters I created for Insane Fantasy…
Very similar! An uncanny resemblance, especially the ‘E’ and the ‘S’. I kind of prefer my curved ‘A’. I tried to make a ‘G’ to match the style, but I just failed terribly, it looked horrible. So I’m glad I was able to find something very similar.
Anyway, be sure to head over to TuneSage and join the mailing list! (If you want.)
Startup School 2019 has begun! Today we basically just got the orientation video (which is not private, so I can embed it):
They tend to make all the lectures public on YouTube, so I should be able to embed them all as they are released! And there’s still time to register, as they mention in the video. Looks like the meetup for the DC area is on August 14th! (Or the 24th? Website and video don’t agree.) I hope to make it there.
They mention that the weekly updates should include some measurable metric. Since I haven’t launched yet, I suppose my metric will be “weeks until launch”, which I am nervous to estimate because things always take longer than you think they will. However, here is my initial estimate:
To do list:
Set up home page to tease potential users, collect emails (today)
Get algorithms and GUI to a usable state (4 weeks)
Create user log-in system paired with payment system & user forum / guides (2 weeks)
Incorporate the company (1 day) and launch!
So six weeks until launch! Good luck to me. (No promises, obviously.)
One of my initial concerns is: should I limit growth to make sure the service can scale? I guess it’s too early to worry about that though.
This year, Y Combinator’s Startup School is open for everyone to register, and I’m hoping to participate. As they say on their blog:
Today, we’re opening up registration for Startup School 2019, our free online course for founders looking to get help turning an idea into a startup. The 10 week course will begin July 22, 2019 and is free for everyone to participate.
They’ll also be granting equity-free $15K grants to “the most promising companies that join and complete the course.” (I still hope to apply to the core YC program, but the possibility of a $15K grant if I don’t make it would surely be nice.)
They’ll also be hosting meetups / events around the world, one location being Washington DC, which I’ll try to make it to. (I just hope it’s not on Tuesday, September 10th, as I’m going to a Kamelot concert that day. Or near the end of August, as I’ve got a sibling’s wedding to go to.)
My startup is the AI-powered music generation web app I’ve been working on, now tentatively titled Tunesage. (Can you think of a better name?)
I was hoping to finish a prototype of the web app by the end of this month (July 2019). I’ll still try to, but I’m also giving myself an extension until September 25th (the deadline to apply to the Y Combinator Winter 2020 batch) due to circumstances beyond my control (such as a sibling’s approaching wedding and my parents deciding now is a good time to redecorate parts of the house).
So that’s what I’m up to. I’ve also been learning the programming language Rust as I hope to use that on the music app’s back-end.
As the 2020 election approaches, we’ll probably hear more about the idea of “universal basic income” from politicians. And it can sound tempting for two main reasons. Reason 1: Free money! Yay! Reason 2: Technological innovations will put people out of their jobs, whatever will we do?! (Answer: Free money! Yay!) (And perhaps Reason 3: I can show compassion towards the less fortunate without having to do anything but vote! Wow, that feels good!)
But it won’t work.
My viewpoint is this: What is money? What does it mean, what does it represent? Ultimately it represents a person’s labor1, another person’s value of that labor. (A product you buy or don’t buy is the product of people’s labor. Even if it was made in a factory. Even if that labor was in the past. That’s really what you’re paying for.) Its value is not arbitrary. It is completely psychological, and collectively psychological at that. It is determined by the countless economic exchanges people make everyday. What is a dollar worth? It’s worth whatever the holder of that dollar is willing to exchange it for, and what someone else is willing to trade to get it.
In other words: THE VALUE OF MONEY IS DEPENDENT ON ITS DISTRIBUTION. Its value cannot be dictated by some authority other than the countless economic exchange decisions people make, because the worth of a man’s labor cannot be dictated by some authority. You can’t just redistribute it with no associated exchange of labor (abstract as that may be) and expect it to retain its value.
This is the biggest and most dangerous flaw of logic so many people seem to make, thinking that money could forcibly (that is, through governmental force rather than organic economic incentive) be exchanged and retain its value. Why / how would it retain its value?!
So when money is exchanged without any associated exchange of labor, as would be the case with universal basic income, you break the game. You devalue money. It logically doesn’t work because the money no longer represents an exchange of labor (or anything at all for that matter). This means the money won’t be spent as though it is. This means the “worth” of whatever the person buys with their “free money” is warped for everyone. Ultimately you just get a rampant cycle of inflation along with the devaluation of needed labor.
This is also why minimum wage sets “by force” (law) doesn’t work2, at least not long term; because wages are not then economically organic, and you actively incentivize businesses to innovate and replace the now costly employees or go out of business. The idea that the wealthy CEOs at the top will just shrug and swallow the loss and devalue their own work is ludicrous. The idea that shareholders of profitable companies will just snap their fingers and say “ah, shucky darns!” and devalue their own investments is ludicrous.
Also note that this has nothing to do with tax (“we can tax production instead of income!”) or issues of “so where does all this free money from?!”3 It doesn’t matter. It’s the act itself that’s the problem, the act of giving people money for nothing. The exchange is meaningless and so the money is meaningless, and so every economic exchange that ripples from the spending of that free money is devalued.
Granted, it’s difficult (if not impossible) to measure this devaluation, as it’s purely psychological4. But that shouldn’t be controversial, because the value of money itself is purely psychological to begin with.
I also thought the video below was an interesting perspective. Jordan Peterson comes at it from a more personal psychological point of view. He says that the idea of “universal basic income” tries to rectify the wrong problem. The problem is not that people lack money, he says, but that they lack purpose. A person without concrete purpose will waste their money, essentially, so it doesn’t solve their problem. “Provision of money without purpose is not helpful.” Money without meaning will do more to hurt an individual than help. “You don’t want no responsibility,” he says.
Makes sense. And so I think he sees the other side of the same coin. Money is psychological. Unearned money is not spent like earned money. This creates both personal and economic problems.
Of course, economic problems already exist. Social security, welfare, government bail-outs, spending waste, national debt, forced insurance (healthcare!). They devalue money (or labor) in one sense or another. But the system doesn’t bear these “cheats” because they somehow actually work, the system works despite them. It can be like saying, well, the camel is still standing, what’s another little piece of straw? Aside from already not moving as fast as he could, the camel is doomed to collapse if you keep adding weight to his back; that he hasn’t collapsed yet is not somehow evidence that he will never do so, especially when history is full of the graves of crushed camels (that is, socialist nations). And universal basic income would not be another little piece of straw, it would be boulder.
Musical artist Radical Face, one of my favorites, recently released a new EP: Therapy. It’s great stuff, catchy melodies, memorable lyrics. While listening to the third track, “Personal Giants”, a simple four-note phrase that appears at the end of the main melody caught my ear. You can hear it first appear at about 12 seconds in:
Just those four notes there. “And kept the light…” And again at 30 seconds in. “You told me time…” Sounds like a simple ascending major triad, with a minor chord on the second beat. Something like this:
This simple phrase stuck out to me because it reminded me of one of my favorite film scores, James Horner’s score for The Land Before Time. The “Great Valley” theme begins with a similar phrase, an ascending major triad with a minor chord (iii?) on the second beat. You can hear it enter at 3:07 in this track:
Other than those four notes, the melodies are quite different. But to me they’re memorable enough that hearing them in Radical Face’s song immediately conjured up images of Little Foot and rocks and a great valley and dead cloud dino Mama beckoning… And the lyrics in “Personal Giants” perhaps could apply to Little Foot. “To me you’re a giant, some distant lighthouse” … maybe a stretch, but it could work, yep yep yep.
So then just the other day Radical Face does a livestream Q&A, and what does he say at 37:07? Behold…
“Ooh, I love movie soundtracks. Some top ones would be, I really specifically adore The Land Before Time soundtrack by James Horner. I think it’s so good.”
Aha!! You see?! Clear and undeniable evidence of musical influence here! And only I understood, only I could see the secret of those four notes, only I made the connection, haha!
By the way, one of my pieces also features some clear and undeniable influence from The Land Before Time soundtrack, if you can find it…