Old posts

Computers shall create!

I’ve recently been reading David Cope’s Virtual Music, a book about his computer program which composes music by analyzing and reassembling music by other composers. I remember hearing about his work years ago, but for some reason I’m just now getting into it… (I’ve been missing out!) I’m not sure if he has the program (called EMI, for Experiments in Musical Intelligents) on the CD of one of his books, but as it would require a Mac anyway, there’s no way I could fool around with it. 🙁 I guess I’ll just have to get a Mac! Well, that won’t happen anytime soon… maybe in a few years.

Somewhere in the book someone mentions something like “computer story understanding.” Huh? I had never heard of that before. So I did some searching and found that there is in fact this whole branch (well, maybe not “branch”, but “area”) of AI dealing with the quest to program computers to write stories…!! Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any recent books on the subject, but I might look into that subject after I finish Cope’s book.

Virtual Music

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Entity Macrocosms

As a joke, I opened an online store at CafePress selling a bunch of overpriced items with a quote I wrote:

The nature of hierarchal breakdown is negatively conditioned to supervene on entity distension, and its husbanding requisitions yielding variances to indulge entity macrocosms.


The quote does mean something obvious, but of course it is written to be as cryptic and confusing as possible, so cryptic that it probably has several meanings. Can you guess what it means? (Don’t expect a prize if you can.)

The joke was inspired by a particularly hilarious thread in a forum, a thread which began as a discussion of this video from YouTube:

I’ll probably post something about it on Stuff I Found eventually. I really like that video.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Do Nothing Mondays

I can hardly do anything on Mondays because I’m in classes all day. I woke up, did some homework, drove to college, had 9 hours of mostly boring classes, drove home, blah blah blah, you get the point. I don’t even have time to write this blog. 🙁 But I will anyway.

I picked up some more books at the library today (that I probably won’t have time to read) by David Cope. One is Vritual Music, which will probably make me not like Douglas Hofstadter even more… and Techniques of Contemporary Composers or something… I mostly want to read what he has to say about chromaticism.

On the way to college today I was listening to the classical music radio when I heard a theme by Mozart. It sounded wonderful, but I didn’t remember Mozart ever seeming so romantic (as in the “Romantic” period… Romanticism). His orchestration of his theme was just unlike anything he had ever done, what a genius he was! Then when it ended the radio lady said it was Variations on a Theme by Mozart by Chopin. Aha! Chopin and Mozart, you tricksters! It was quite a beautiful piece, unfortunately my college didn’t seem to have a copy at the library… I’ll have to ask them to order it! (Eventually!)

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Strange Dreams

Firstly, I want to test the embedding of one of these customized embedded YouTube players…

Hmmm… interesting!

I had a strange dream last night in which my book-in-progress, The Game of Gynwig, was finished and published. I was holding the book, flipping through its pages, and remembering plot points that don’t exist. (Two nights ago I had an even stranger dream in which hippos wanted to eat me and I had to fight them with swords.)

Hungry Hungry Hippo

Today I mostly worked on some Flash animations for a new online educational music course regarding Jazz. The work is tedious and time consuming, but the end is near (I think) and it should be online before the year is out, so look forward to it!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

Long Time, No Blog

I can finally blog again! I went weeks without the Internet, then I had midterms and a cold and many emails to catch up on, but now things are finally settling back to chaos.

I’ve been reading a short biography of Mahler. Although I love his music, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy I’d get along with… he seems very prideful, and not in the honest Roark kind of way, but in the bloated and wrong Toohey way. I’m about half-way through the book.

The other day I bought three books (bound as one) by Alexandre Dumas: The Three Musketeers, The Count of Montecristo, and The Man in the Iron Mask. I was mostly interested in the books because of how good the stories seem in the movies, and the collection was a mere $13. That price for 1400 pages of fiction sounds good to me!

I finished writing my Opus 40, “The King’s Assassin”, but I still have some orchestrational editing to do. However, that will have to wait since I must now focus my musical energy on an orchestration of The Cornish Wassail for a Christmas CD. I started working on it a while ago, but I’m seriously considering scrapping my work on it thus far (I was almost about half way done) and starting anew with a different… “outlook” I suppose you could say. What I have now isn’t really bad, but it sounds too simple orchestrationally. It needs more umph. More power. Orchestrating is hard!

The preview for Sweeney Todd is out! It looks like fun, but I’d rather Sweeney and his world didn’t seem so dark on the outside. I think Sweeney is more of a normal looking man with inside darkness. He shouldn’t look like a crazy murderer on the outside. He’s not supposed to be that kind of crazy. Oh well, I still look forward to it. What do you think?

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

No Internet

Argh!! We’ve no Internet connection yet in the new house. (I’m on a computer at the local library.) This morning the phone company (Verizon) said it will probably be at least another week before our high-speed access comes through. Another week without the Internet?! How will I live? I’m experiencing extreme withdrawal. 🙁 (And they might be lying about “another week”, it might be longer since they first said “2 to 3 days” which was wrong.)

I’m almost finished another piece of music which I’m thinking about calling “The King’s Assassin”… it’s an orchestral piece that uses a drum kit and sounds a bit James Bondish at times. I’ve also got a 9 minute lullaby called “Guinevere” that just needs dynamics editing… if I ever get around to that. It’ll probably be at least a week before I can post them, since I… have no Internet!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts


Ugh… Mondays are so long…

It’s a new month, October! I don’t dislike winter, but I hate fall. It gets too dark and too cold too early in the day. Spring is probably the best season though…

Anyway, my family and I have now moved into a new house… it’s much bigger, and there’s a lot more room, especially since much of our stuff is still in boxes. Actually, I should pull out our video camera and film a short tour of the house, since it won’t take long for the place to become… “populated”. Unfortunately I think our video camera is in a box somewhere. I guess I could take a bunch of digital pictures. This might just be the biggest house I’ll ever live in, though that is unlikely considering how rich I will inevitably become.

I’m almost finished reading The Case Against Adolescence. Perhaps I am so easily able to accept the ideas and conclusions of the book because I was “adolescent” not so long ago; my “teen years” are fresh in my mind. And I came to some of the conclusions the author does on my own, though without the research or science or even historical context the book gives, which only strengthens my opinions. However, I haven’t completely finished reading the book, and I’ll dedicate an entire blog post to the subject when I do. If you’re a teenager, regularly interact with teens, or plan on parenting teens some day, you should definitely read it; it may change your perspective and your actions (or so I hope).

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

High school != education

I was speaking to a frustrated and irritated high schooler about my thought that much of what is taught in high school is pretty useless… it’s for the most part time wasting busy work. Unfortunately when I make that argument, people seem to think I’m advocating the exact opposite, that I’m suggesting high schoolers should stay home and play the computer or start working at Burger King for the rest of their lives, that I’m suggesting that education itself is completely useless. I’m not! High school, as it is now, is mostly useless education-wise, but it’s extremely useful in that you need to have a high school diploma to get a decent college degree, which you need to get a decent job. Thus this problem of high school’s wastefulness is not just an education problem that can be solved by closing high schools; colleges and employers must use different criteria to evaluate applications, and law makers must… well… change laws.

Of course I don’t want an operation by a heart surgeon who flunked out of high school and never got a degree (or a license), but I certainly don’t care what grade he got on his Huckleberry Finn research paper. Relevance matters. You can learn a lot in high school if you pay attention and apply yourself. And you’ll probably forget a lot because you’ll never use it. You’ll learn a lot more during the rest of your life, when you have the opportunity (and requirement) to actually apply what you learn to something meaningful. Your knowledge base will probably become less eclectic, but much more vital. (And of course you should always pursue your interests even if they’re eclectic, but you’d be Peter Keating if you have to ask someone else what you should be interested in. Eclecticism need not be sought for its own sake.)

The high schooler I was talking to claimed that if students were not required to go to high school, they would just play Halo 3 all day, since that’s what they tend to do in their spare time anyway. Obviously if a teenager was to play video games all day, that would defeat the point of my argument. Yes, a lazy teenager might do just that, play Halo 3 all day, but high school isn’t going to increase his work ethic. High school should be replaced with meaningful responsibility. I’m not talking about clean-the-kitchen or take-out-the-trash house chores. High schoolers should be perfectly capable (mentally and physically, even if not legally) of working an entry-level job (I’m not talking Burger King patty flipping) and getting on-the-job training, education that is actually relevant. They should then be capable of making and spending the money they make. They might have to take classes to learn the specifics of the theoritical material involved in their work, but it will be much more meaningful (and probably easier to learn) when the applications of such material are fully known. From what I’ve seen, no doctor-in-training sits in a classroom and does bookwork until he graduates, and suddenly works at a hospital with real patients. Medical students must get the experience of actually working in the hospital before they graduate.

Our schooling system serves two purposes that often compete with each other: to teach, and to assess. (Bad teachers tend to be the ones that focus too much on assessment, often not being smart enough themselves to do any teaching. They often use a text book to do much of their work. They plan their lessons from it then use their “teacher edition” to grade work from it. Then they wonder why they don’t get paid much and advocate “teacher appreciation day”. In some cases, “teacher” may be a misnomer.) Teaching is most important of the two, is it not? My argument is that if grades are given the importance they are today by colleges and employers, they should better reflect what they’re meant to: what the student knows. Therefore, all teachers should allow every student to take unlimited make-up tests and turn in late homework at all times. Otherwise you’re grading more than you’re teaching. “But,” you say, “deadlines are important in the real world! Students need to turn things in on time if they want to make it in the working world!” And you’d be right, but late homework shouldn’t penalize the actual content of the homework. A separate grade should be given for timeliness, but without the incentive of money or life dependence (like there is in the real world), it’s hard for such a grade to have importance, which is why what I said before about getting work experience while taking relevant classes is a better education model. People fail their driver’s license exams all the time, but we don’t put an “Exam Failed x times” on their licenses that somehow impairs their legal driving privileges.

I could blather on about this for longer, but I’m tired. And I think you get the point… though if you disagree with me, you might not… :-Þ

With great responsibility should come great power! (Wouldn’t that be nice?)


By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

My life in boxes

Ok, not really, but rhetorically that sounds pretty cool… it’s like a metaphor or something.

But what I mean is that our house is, as I type, being packed by movers into boxes. A lot of boxes. So if I suddenly have the urge to look something up in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I couldn’t. The emptiness of the house and the stacks of boxes everywhere make the place look quite strange.

Here’s one of things we had to do in one of my classes called “Computer Vision” … we had to take an image like this:

… and find its outline, like this:

Don’t you wish you could do that? Jealous? The class is one of the more interesting I’ve had, though I still can’t say I enjoy homework with deadlines… but I finally understand hue, saturation, and intensity!

By S P Hannifin, ago
Old posts

More strange searches…

My family and I are moving to a new and bigger house soon (we’re movin’ on up) so I’ve been quite busy. In fact, today I was helping to get tons of boxes out of our attic and dripped more sweat than I have in years. I felt like I should be on Dirty Jobs

Today on Dirty Jobs I empty an old attic in thick dust and unbearable humidity. Some of these boxes haven’t been touched in decades, and some are incredibly heavy… and they’ve all gotta come down. You’re probably wondering if it stinks up here. It does. Attic emptiers make civilized life possible for the rest of us.

Anyway, looking over my web stats, here are some more strange search phrases people have used to come across this website:

“beethoven’s female copyist” He didn’t have one.
“how to burn stuff” Uh… look out for that guy.
“better than an ipod” Well, not a Zune.
“how old is the guy who played saruman” Pretty darn old.
“commuting to college” It’s awesome.
“stuff to morph” What?

People can be weird!

By S P Hannifin, ago