Money money money

Not much, but some.  Today I got my first ever payment for writing music, which I put up on TwitPic:

Money!  Woohoo!

Ain’t that loverly?  I wasn’t sure what to blur out, so I just blurred most of it out.

My sleeping schedule is currently completely backwards.  I want to stay up all night and sleep during the day.  It’s pretty annoying, since I have work in the mornings every now and then.

I guess that’s it for now.

My website is so popular

It was another long work day, so I didn’t really get anything productive done in my free time.  Although I did seem to be having problems with my site displaying on certain mobile browsers and Google Chrome, so I edited some PHP code and fooled around with some of my site’s security settings, so hopefully my site will now load on any browser.  And with the insane amounts of traffic my site gets, that should really be helpful.  In fact, let’s check Google Analytics now and see how many visits my site has had in the past month:

772 Visits

1,493 Pageviews

1.93 Pages/Visit

Huh, that’s actually more than I thought it would be.  Still, that’s quite low compared sites that get more traffic, wouldn’t you say?  And 772 isn’t quite the number of unique visitors; sometimes the same viewer may be recounted.  Don’t ask me to explain, it’s all very complicated rocket science.  And I believe I have Analytics also counting visitors to some of my other domains, like thecomposepile.com.

Anyway, maybe I’ll get a few more visitors now that all browsers should be able to reach my sites without problems… I think.

Oh, I recently started reading the fantasy / sci-fi book called Lamentation (The Psalms of Isaak) by Ken Scholes.  So far I’m really enjoying it.  Very good writing and very engaging story.  I really need to stop checking out library books and read some of the dozens of paperbacks I have on my bookshelf, but I can’t seem to help myself…

Game programming and so on and whatnot

GAME PROGRAMMING

It feels nice to be diving into game programming again.  I’d forgotten how engaging it can be.  Right now, however, I’m doing more graphics programming than game programming.  I’m experimenting with OpenGL on Google’s Android operating system, trying to get a feel for how it all works.  I hope to create a little adventure game with it.  Or an action game.  Or a mix.  I’m not really sure yet.  Recently, I’ve just finished programming a tile-based scrolling map, which was quite a challenge itself.

Anyway, there are not yet many resources out there for programming games for Android.  But there are a few.  I bought a book called Pro Android last week from Amazon and it just recently arrived and has already been of some help.  I’ve also been reading through Chris Pruett’s Replica Island game development blog, which not only has some info on programming for Android, but has some fantastic wisdom on game development in general.

THE ACCORD REVIEW

The Accord In other news, I finished reading the sci-fi book The Accord by Keith Brooke a few days ago.  (I just picked it randomly off the library shelf one day.)  It was a strange book, and overall pretty bad.  It’s filled with awful language, and it’s used so often that it loses all affect and becomes somewhat comic.  The tenses shift from scene to scene, and the POV shifts from first to second to plural first depending on the character or mix of characters in the scene.  The last third of the book is told over the span of thousands of years, so characters forget who they originally were and what they used to want, which makes it quite hard to keep relating to them.  And some characters mix with other characters to become new characters.  With such ideas, it had the potential to be a really awesome story, but unfortunately it was just a lame love-triangle tale, with this character bent on getting this character to love him, and this character bent on killing this guy, and this character forgetting who she is… it drags on too long.  And the ending… maybe I should have read the ending (or endings) more carefully, because I found it (or them) to be somewhat cryptic; I’m not quite sure what happened.  It certainly wasn’t climactic though.

That was the 9th book I’ve finished reading this year, and only the 2nd fiction book.  I seem to read an average of 10 books a year.  Which I suppose isn’t too bad, but also very bad, depending on who I am compared to.  Obviously I’ll never make it as a writer.  Although, that’s only counting books, not book fragments, short stories, articles, magazines, etc.  So I’m probably OK.  Although my want-to read-list is at around 50.

READING AUDIO BOOKS?

There seems to be some debate on these here interwebs as to whether or not one can validly say that they “read” audio books.  The answer is:

No, you do not “read” audio books.  Don’t flatter yourself.

The problem is that, when asked “How many books did you read?” or “Have you read such-and-such?” you can either answer “No, I listened to them” or simply “Yes.”  If you say yes, you are lying, but it’s an OK lie because nobody cares.  It does not make “reading” and “listening” equivalent.

DOLLHOUSE AND OTHER SUCH TV BLATHER

Dr. House doll! Fox cancelled Dollhouse last week, which is very sad.  It wasn’t as good as Firefly, and it’s not as good as House, but it was a very fun sci-fi show.  I am wondering if they will wrap up the storylines in the final episodes or if it’s too late and now and the storylines are doomed to never be resolved.  Earlier this year, there was another fun show called My Own Worst Enemy.  I thought that had a really fun premise, but that was cancelled and the storylines were left unresolved.  The problem with series in which each episode builds on the last is that when they are cancelled you’ve got these big over-arching stories that never complete, making the remaining of the series a bit sour.  It’s like making two movies in a trilogy.  Who would want to watch or buy them?  I don’t feel like watching any Dollhouse or buying the seasons on blu-ray if the storylines are just going to remain unresolved.  At least with Firefly they were able to make the film Serenity, which did provide at least a little closure, but it’s highly doubtful they’ll do that with Dollhouse.  Now when is some more Dr. Horrible stuff supposed to come out?

The other shows I’m watching (on Hulu, mostly) are Monk (3 more episodes of the series left, hopefully Monk will soon solve his wife’s murder), House (best show on right now, or at least tied with Monk), Lie to Me, and Fringe.  And sometimes a bit of The Simpsons and Family Guy.  Oh, and Shark Tank… awesome reality show.  I can’t wait for the next season.  I was enjoying How’d You Get So Rich, a show in which Joan Rivers went around touring rich people’s mansions and lavish lifestyles, but that show got cancelled, perhaps because Joan’s face fell off.  I also have the show Legend of the Seeker on my wish-list… it airs on some bizarre channel at a bizarre hour, and I couldn’t keep up with it on Hulu, so I’d like to buy it on blu-ray or DVD (I watched the first few episodes on Hulu to know I’d like to see the rest of the season, even though it’s a bit cheesy at times… but so was the book).  Oh, I’ve also been watching Flash Forward on Hulu.  That show started out slow, but it’s getting interesting (or at least they’re putting in some comic relief in now).  Also been watching V (The Visitors), which has still been a bit stale so far, but it’s one of the only shows that comes on when I’m not at work.  Hmmm… I guess I watch too much.

OK, I think that’s enough blather, eh?

The Motorola Droid is in my hands

I’m writing this quick blog post from my new Motorola Droid. I wanted to wake up early and get one from Wal-mart, but I slept in, and by the time I got there at 3 PM, it was too late, they were sold out. So I went to Best Buy instead; they still had some. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me get a data-only plan, since I don’t talk much, either because it’s not yet offered on the Droid, or because they are stupid. But if I’m ever able to switch to data-only, I surely will. Until then, I’m really enjoying the phone and will soon try some programming for it. I just have one little music project I need to finish up, a Christmas orchestration…

A Problem with Google Wave

Google Wave is still, of course, very much in its infancy, but I see one major problem with it.  Well, it’s not really a “problem” … it’s more of a structural property that I think is unhelpful.

With Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and forums, when I post something, I’m not posting to anybody.  I’m just posting something out there to whoever might be interested.  In Facebook I’m posting to friends, in Twitter I’m tweeting to followers, in blogs I’m posting to whoever visits or subscribes to my blog (that’s you!), and on forums I post to other members or visitors of the forum.

With e-mail, on the other hand, I’m conversing privately with one select person (or a select group).  Twitter has an equivalent: direct messages.  Forums also have an equivalent: private messages.  Facebook also private messaging, an equivalent, and a wall-posting, which is semi-equivalent.

Currently, Google Wave is somewhere between.  It can certainly replace email as it is (well, once attachments are allowed and more people start using it).  But to truly be revolutionary, it needs to provide a way for me to talk to nobody; it needs a way for me to post a wave and let anyone who wants to read it read it and reply to it, or let other wavers subscribe to my public waves.  I fear that if it does not do this, it may stay a very niche tool.

That said, I probably shouldn’t worry; there’s a lot of functionality yet to be implemented and a lot of plug-ins and exports and whatever yet to be written.

So while I’m glad I got a Wave invite and am allowed on, it’s still kind of useless to me at the moment.

THESE AREN’T THE DROIDS WE’RE LOOKING FOR

Droid In other not-very-interesting news, I’m continuing to look through Google’s Android SDK.  Even though I’ve been programming in Java for a while now (though I definitely consider myself far from expert), the structure of how Android applications work is still kind of cryptic to me.  And, unfortunately, the OS is still so new that there aren’t many learning resources for it, especially for game development and graphics, which are my areas of interest.  If you want to develop games, you’re pretty much on your own.  Google does provide some source code for some very small sample programs, but you kind of have to figure out how they work on your own.  For example, Google says:

Writing a summary of how to actually write 3D applications using OpenGL is beyond the scope of this text and is left as an exercise for the reader.

I’m sure Java / game / graphics programming experts would have an easier time understanding how it all works by just studying the sample source code, but it will take some extra work for me.

Anyway, I’ve been looking more and more at the new Droid phone coming out, and I’ve been thinking that I’ll be needing some sort of phone with Android on it to test any potential apps I might create, so I’m very tempted to get one.  Like, very very tempted.  Like, I probably will.  For, you know, game development research, of course.

By the way, I like what it says at the bottom of the Droid site:

DROID is a trademark of Lucasfilm Ltd. and its related companies.  Used under license.

Where would the world be if Star Wars had been a flop?  We might not have this phone!

No NaNo and other stuff instead

I guess NaNoWriMo has officially started!  And … I don’t care.  I’ve once again changed my mind, and will probably not participate this year.  I have a bunch of other stuff I want to do, including finishing my album that I’ve been working on for over a year now.  I’m still about 10 minutes of music away from completing the thing.  I’m currently working on the last section of an unnamed orchestral piece.  I’m orchestrating / composing the climax and end, so it’s almost done.  Then I have four other pieces started that need finishing, though I don’t believe all of them will make it onto the album.  One will probably be called “The Journey Ahead” and I am fairly sure that it will indeed appear on the album as I think it really fits with the spirit of the other pieces.  And one will probably be called “Castle Sky” … that’s my long 15-minute orchestral piece (and still unfinished, but I don’t think it will be much longer).

Oh, I started a new project, one that I know I’ll finish eventually because it requires hardly any work at all from me.  I call it: The Mozart Listening Project.  The objective: to listen to the complete works of Mozart while following along with the scores.  As you can see on the side, I made a page about it.  Because it is just so important.  I just started working through his symphonies.  Got a long way to go.

Android Lastly, I was chatting on a music forum on Friday, and someone mentioned the new Verizon phone coming out called Droid, which will compete with the iPhone (though, of course, that’s some very tough competition).  Looking at the Droid rekindled my interest in creating an app.  It was something I looked into in college, when Google’s Android OS first came out, but somehow lost interest.  (And as far as I can tell, one must have a Mac to use the iPhone SDK, so I don’t think I’ll be trying to develop for the iPhone anytime soon … though, from a business perspective, that’s currently where most of the phone app market is, methinks.)

Anyway, I’m downloading the newest Android SDK and will perhaps try creating something with it.  Having long been interested in game development, two things excite me about the phone app market: 1) It’s rather new, and is still at a stage where a single developer can develop a sellable app by himself.  In most of the video game industry (except perhaps online Flash games), those days are long gone, never to return.  And perhaps one day the phone app industry will be like that too, but it isn’t now.  And 2) it can be very lucrative.  Actually, I’m not sure how lucrative it is.  I’ve heard that some iPhone apps are making millions.  But that’s only a very select few out of tens of thousands, so I suppose it’s like saying that the music industry can be very lucrative.  Well, yes, it can be, but only few a very select few.  Still, I’m guessing the phone app industry is more lucrative than the indie artist industry.  Unfortunately, I’m sure it’s even less lucrative for non-iPhone developers at this time, but who know?  With Google’s more open platform, Android or some similar OS might come to dominate the phone industry, just like Windows now dominate Macs, despite Apple’s oh-so-witty ads.  In fact, I predict that will happen in the next decade or so … Apple may still dominate the iTunes / iPod industry, but the iPhone might meet its demise with a collection of other phones that run the same OS and are thus compatible with the same programs…

And… I guess that’s all I have to say.

Writing fiction is mentally exhausting

I worked a bit more on my novelette this weekend, The Cliffs of Oakenrah.  The wordcount is now up to 5,600.  I’m still on scene 5 of 21 though, but it’s a rather long scene.  Perhaps it is because I am out of practice, and I haven’t been forcing myself to write everyday whether I feel like it or not (as some writers do), but I am finding the process to be mentally exhausting.  Some of it is because of the actual writing; trying to find the right words, trying to describe things as simply as possible, trying to make sentences flow easily together.  But some of it also has to do with the internal imagining of the world.  If I were just going to sit and daydream, it wouldn’t be very hard; I could probably go through scenes in my head as if they were parts of a movie.  But when I have to write down everything that happens, I have to always slow it down, play it over again and again (and of course it’s always a bit different each time), and pay attention to the details.  Not that my writing is overly detailed, but it’s easier to imagine travelling through a mysterious cave than it is to describe it in words.  It’s easy to imagine the look and movements of fantastical non-existent creatures than it is to describe them in words.  I find that process to be very mentally exhausting.

Dialogue can also be annoying, because as the author I know what I want the characters to talk about, but if they’re talking about something completely different, I have to find a way for them to flow into the desired topic, without it seeming completely forced.  And I have to continually change world-view perspectives in my mind.  The story might be from the point-of-view of one character, but I have to know the world-view and motivation for every character that says something important to write his or her dialogue believably.

And then of course there’s always the balance of info-giving.  Especially since this is a fantasy novelette, there’s a lot of other-worldly stuff I could spend time describing.  But I don’t want to “info-dump,” which might bore readers.  On the other hand, I don’t want to leave too much out, which would confuse readers.  Finding the balance is tricky, especially since it’s something I don’t really think about directly while writing; it’s more an element I just have to get a feel for through feedback I think, since my world is always completely clear to me, the writer.

OK, that’s enough blather isn’t it?

Ten thousand hours might mean nothing

At this point I’m fairly sure I will indeed do NaNoWriMo … sort of.  I’m going to start writing, that is, but I’m not really going to try to win, I’m not going to strive for 50,000 words in a month.  I’m just going to see how much I can get done, but I’m not going to push myself.  That way, I can’t lose!

I spent an hour today finally continuing work on my fantasy novelette, The Cliffs of Oakenrah.  I’m on scene 5 of 21, so there’s a ways to go.  If I finish, it might become longer than Dreamgiver, making it the longest work of fiction I’ve ever completed.  Which, I suppose, is pretty lame compared to most writers, but very superior compared to people who never write anything.

TEN THOUSAND HOURS

I was listening to a writing podcast the other day, and I heard the concept of the “ten thousand hours to expert” come up once again.  I think some writers and artists in general are interpreting the concept in a ridiculous way, taking it to mean that an artist’s art won’t be any good until the artist has ten thousand hours of experience, and that artists who do have ten thousand of experience are objectively better because of it.  But I think the arts are a bit too subjective for that, and I think people forget that there’s a difference between experience and practice, as I mention on the Book Quotes Blog.  Even I have used the terms synonymously, when they’re not exactly synonymous.  Getting more experience doing something you already know how to do well might not help you much, might not make you that much better.

Really, though, it just comes down to the subjectivity of an art like writing.  It’s hard to argue that you’re a better chess player if you keep losing games, or a better piano player when you can’t play anything by Chopin.  But there are no games or rules in writing.  And we don’t have “author’s experience hours” stamped on the back of books to help us decide whether or not it’s something we’ll like.

So please please just stop applying the ten thousand hour rule to something as subjective as writing fiction.  It actually doesn’t mean quite so much in such a context.  I’m sure there are plenty of inexperienced writers whose first works I would find brilliant, and plenty twenty-thousand-hours experienced writers who might make me want to jump of cliff to end the torture of knowing their work was deemed by someone else to be publishable.

Nor does the ten thousand hour concept apply to walking, eating, sleeping, daydreaming, etc.

I still think about this post by writer John Scalzi (especially since it was brought up in the podcast I mentioned as being a “painfully honest post”).

While I agree with a lot of what he says, I also think he is making the mistake of thinking his own experience counts for a bit too much.  Experience does not make your opinions more valid, not in the subjective art world, as he (and many others) seem to think.  I believe that that is a snobby way to think.  Sometimes people compare writing to fields in which opinions aren’t subjective, like medicine.  (“I want my doctor to have experience!”)  Well, duh.  There is right and wrong in medicine.  Writing, not so much.  Yes, there is some, but not nearly as much.  Writing is based on our desires, the rules come from our opinions.  Medicine doesn’t work that way.  Experience writing also does not automatically make you a better writer.  You have to practice … you have to work to understand the conventions of our time, understand how you as a reader respond to other people’s works, understand how the authors you enjoy write the way they do.  So, yes, I do agree that inexperienced authors (including me) tend to not be as good.  I still don’t have any sense of how a plot should arc over the course of something novel size, as I have never finished writing a novel.  But that opinion comes from me, not some scientific objective rule about novel plot arcs, and not from writers who are more experienced looking down upon me judging my work.  And I’m not going to get better (which is also subjective) without getting feedback from others, including publishers who reject my work.

It’s not science (well, technically it is; it’s psychology, but it’s nothing we can currently objectively study).  It’s definitely not medicine.  And authors are not doctors.

And that’s all I have to say today.

Read a book, write a book

READ A BOOK

Why Don't Students Like School? The other day I finished reading the book Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom and I put up some quotes from the book on my Book Quotes blog.  It was a short read, only 165 pages.  It’s really meant for teachers, but as someone who is interested in our terrible American education system, I quite wanted to read it.  It takes a psychological perspective on education, which would probably interest anyone interested in the basic psychology of learning.

That’s only 8th book I’ve finished this year.  I probably could’ve read more by now, but I’m reading about 8 more books simultaneously at the moment, so finishing one takes a lot longer.  And of course sometimes I just give up on a book.  I realized yesterday that I only finished reading one fiction book this year, the other seven were all non-fiction.

WRITE A BOOK

I’m still not sure whether or not I’ll participate in NaNoWriMo next month.  I have some fun new ideas floating around in my head, so it’s quite tempting, but I do want to finish my album, obviously.  I keep going back and forth.  One day I’ll think to myself “oh, I’ve gotta at least try NaNoWriMo; this idea is just too exciting to resist,” and then the next day I’ll think, “I can’t do it, I’ve gotta finish this album.  I don’t want to have to worry about writing fiction too.”

So I still don’t know what I’ll do.  It will all depend on how I feel in November I guess.

Deadline failure and other such things

I was hoping to compose 5 minutes of music a week, starting last Tuesday, but unfortunately I was only able to compose 2 minutes and 46 seconds by this past Sunday.  So I fail!  Shocking, no?

I blame a few things:

deadlineclock1)  My job. It’s a part-time job, so I can’t blame it for taking up too much time, but it does take up time.  So I must blame it.

2)  Fatigue. This is also job related.  When I have to work at 9 AM, that means I am pretty much tired throughout the day.  Which isn’t a problem for doing most things.  But I think a lot while I’m composing; it’s a very mind-intensive activity; it takes a lot of focus for me.  And when I’m fatigued, music has a way of lulling me off to the land of pleasant dreams, especially the incredibly fantastic music I compose.  So it is extremely difficult to compose while fatigued.  I did try taking some caffeine tablets, but alas, no effect.  I must have high caffeine tolerance.  I could feel it make my heart beat faster, but nothing else.  Of course, caffeine really isn’t supposed to be used to counter sleep-deprivation, so maybe it has nothing to with tolerance.  But that’s what some people seem to use it for and they swear by it.  It doesn’t help me though.

3)  Not being able to stay up all night. Again, job related.  Since I have to be at work at certain hours, I am not free to simply stay up as late as I want composing and then just sleep until I am not tired anymore.  (Not that this problem doesn’t plague most people.)  I sometimes seem to think more actively at night, perhaps because there are fewer distractions; the TVs and radios are off, no one’s on the phone and no one calls, etc.  But I can’t use the time to my advantage if I need to get some sleep in before going to work.

4)  Perfectionism. Or pickiness.  I spent 2.5 hours a few nights ago composing and orchestrating 4 bars.  I think that’s the longest 4 bars ever took me.  But I’m very pleased with the result.  Though I suppose I could fiddle around and tweak orchestration for many many hours, it always eventually has to come to a point in which I am pleased enough and must move on.

5)  Other stuff. For example, on Tuesday, I had to spend time tidying the house for guests.  Chores are evil and must be blamed.

That said, I must say I’m extremely pleased with the progress I’ve been making with my latest piece so far.  I went to bed yesterday with the melodies I composed annoyingly humming through my mind uncontrollably.

A big disadvantage of giving myself a deadline has emerged: I get angry. And stressed.  And a bit depressed.  And what fun is that?  I blame all the other stuff I must do, like go to work, which just makes going to work that much more painful and annoying.  So I’m very much considering throwing away the deadline and just composing as often as I can.  I don’t want to be angry by having goals and then not reaching them due to things like having to go to work that I can do little about.  Or I could just blame my undisciplined self for not being more disciplined and getting more done when I do have chances, but that won’t make me any happier either.

FEDERATIONS

federationsSince I don’t have much time for composing, I have even less time to read, but in what short moments I can spare, I’ve been reading a collection of science fiction short stories in a book called Federations.  Here are my very short reviews of the few stories from the book I’ve read so far.  They are only my subjective opinions, and I am perhaps more picky than most (ratings are on a scale of 0-5 stars):

Mazer in Prison by Orson Scott Card:  4 stars.  I actually read this in another book before, so I skipped reading it again, but I almost always enjoy Orson Scott Card.  Very good story from the Ender’s Game universe.

Carthago Delenda Est by Genevieve Valentine:  2 stars.  Though the premise was very interesting, the author didn’t seem to do much with it.  It was more of an idea story, as nothing much really happened.  A world was presented, some unimportant things took place, and that was it.

Life-Suspension by L. E. Modesitt:  0 stars.  Interesting characters with interesting dynamics.  But nothing very interesting happened.  And there were these battle scenes that were too cryptic for me with all their pilot-in-battle speak.

Terra-Exulta by S. L. Gilbow:  3.5 stars.  Not really a story, but a very fun fictional letter.  I enjoyed it.

Aftermaths by Lois McMaster Bujold:  1.5 stars.  Again, an interesting premise, but an uninteresting story.

Someone is Stealing the Great Throne Rooms of the Galaxy by Harry Turtledove:  2 stars.  Had it’s funny moments, but most of it’s humor was just stale and annoying, as if the author just wrote the story off the top of his head, writing down every stupid joke he thought of.  Didn’t really work for me.

Prisons by Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason:  3.5 stars.  Started off a bit confusing, but once the story started rolling, it was actually quite good.

Different Day by K. Tempest Bradford:  0 stars.  Yikes.  While I like the idea of not portraying an alien race as a clichéd “monoculture” (as we humans certainly aren’t), this not-really-a-story didn’t really do much with it.  It’s just a three page ramble.

And that’s all for today, methinks.