The sounds that make harmony in our minds

Music can be an inspiration for many people. It has been part of human history since before we kept history. It is something almost everyone can relate to at least in some part. People have even tried to quantify the most pleasing sounds scientifically, and as a person with a degree in chemistry, I applaud the endeavor to better understand the human brain and how it functions.

When I am writing, I almost always have some music playing in the background. Sometimes it is the same song on an endless loop, other times it is a playlist on the loop. I admit that as I am working, I pretty much tune out a conscious awareness of the music, but it does allow me to set my mood for what I am working on.

But that got me thinking about what my brain really is doing with that sensory input and how I am treating it very much like a machine. I push in a specific input (the chosen music) to achieve a specific output (a particular mood).

Switching gears slightly. Something that you may not have heard of is Hatsune Miku, which according to the Wikipedia article and Crypton Future Media translates into “the first sound of the future.” She is a hologram with a computer-generated voice developed by Crypton Future Media.

Below is a YouTube video from an Expo in 2016 where people watched the hologram performance.

While I know some people will scoff at the idea of people paying money to listen to a computer, I actually find it fascinating to see just how far computer technology has come since I got my first computer. Plus, I will remind you that we joke about pet rocks while wishing we had come up with that ourselves.

The idea of machine learning, and the eventual rise of our new masters (I fully support you), is not new to writers and storytellers. We’ve had tales of our eventual downfall to the machines (or other advanced/magical constructs like golems) for thousands of years. Some of my favorite modern examples are things like Terminator and Terminator 2 (okay, not exactly modern as they are getting older, but still great).

There are other subtle hints of more sophisticated and cunning examples of computer technology impacting our lives and fooling our eyes and ears. This again is not new in writing or movie; however, the CGI ending with Princess Leia at the end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a great example of being able to make a very real representation of a person outside of their time and place. Compare that with Max Headroom, an AI from 1984 (and worth a watch).

A possible implication of all this is framing someone in the court of public opinion when so many people are easily swayed by first impressions and skeptical of evidence. In the future, I imagine a period of time were digital forensics might have a hard time telling truth from fiction if one technology outpaces another.

And getting us back to music, this weekend CBS’ Sunday Morning talked about the fact that several stars that are no longer with us today will once again be making an appearance on stage, which relate in part back to Hatsune Miku. Here is a CBS news article about bringing back Maria Callas as discussed on Sunday Morning.

I find the technology fascinating, and as a reader and writer, I see the fantasies of yesterday becoming today’s reality, and from that, my mind jumps to the next great world ending scenario (because dystopian stories have always had an audience). I just hope that in the future, when I come back as a hologram, they give me Dwayne Johnson’s abs.

Campaign Log: 1.26 – And for one, it ends in fire

Campaign Log

FireLast Wednesday at Pawn & Pint several members of the party threw caution to the wind and tempted fate. One of them has learned, perhaps a bit late, that witches and warlocks find the white-hot flames of a purifying fire. For those that want to go to the beginning, here is the post that started this campaign.

We resume the session with the party heading south. Already several days out of Vantar, they continue to pull Tyr’s stolen cart and the heavy steel cage. Unfortunately for Tyr, the people in the smaller towns lack the funds to purchase expensive plate armor and weapons. However, this does not stop Tyr from trying to sell her wares. Nor does it induce her or Quai to conceal their identities.

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Campaign Log: 1.25 – A Midnight Party

Campaign Log

Map of CothelLast Wednesday at Pawn & Pint the party fled Vantar because of the destruction they had left behind. Though, perhaps their quick and quiet getaway was neither quick nor particularly quiet. For those that want to go to the beginning, here is the post that started this campaign.

We resume the session with several members of the party wanting to head south toward the mountains and the border with Comir, since they already know that Comir is itching to send over invaders. However, Tyr wants to get the steel from the cage, and so while the rest of the party leaves the city and waits for her, she goes to the guardhouse and tries to negotiate the release of the stolen goods into her custody. In the end, she does manage to sway one guard to help her steal the evidence. The trouble is, it takes about half the day to get the cage and cart out of the city, which puts them behind schedule a bit. Since they have only angered a major crime lord in the city, that shouldn’t represent a problem…right?

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Campaign Log: 1.24 – Free at Last

Campaign Log

Map of CothelLast Wednesday at Pawn & Pint the party was joined by a new barbarian who agreed to help Erik free Jessica, as long as the thief would pay back the five gold he owed her. For those that want to go to the beginning, here is the post that started this campaign.

The action picked up with a very injured Unferth heading out of the small store to find a safe place to recover while the others continued to try and free Jessica (fortunately, we have a new stand-in barbarian for the night).

Tyr had locked herself behind a wall and now faced a multitude of people on her own (or at least with an injured and weaponless Jessica at her back in a cage).

Wilby, Rowan, and Quai had a 7’x7′ stone wall standing over the top of pit blocking their way to the north there Tyr had gone.

Cynder remained in the shop to watch for trouble.

And Erik, out in the street, brought in a friend named Kava, a barbarian from far away who simply wanted her money back.

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Campaign Log: 1.23 – Rescue

Campaign Log

Map of CothelLast Wednesday at Pawn & Pint to try and rescue Rowan’s friend the action went underground (and inside a building). For those that want to go to the beginning, here is the post that started this campaign.

We pick up from the prior session at the farmhouse south of Vantar. Dead bandits and thieves littered the scene (with one prisoner taken by Tyr). The snow cat was gone and Eric had nothing to use to get enough money so he could pay back Hecktor and free Jessica.

Tyr, however, claimed to be an expert blacksmith (please see the full plate mail she is wearing) and she could turn the steel cage into several suits of armor and make a small fortune doing that. They could then use that money to rescue Jessica. As to the fact that it normally would take a year to do that and Jessica and Erik had but a handful of days … well, Tyr has the favor of Felis and can do the work in a matter of hours instead of months.  (This is the point where you ask, what can go wrong … and then the DM smiles.)

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Campaign Log: 1.22 – Snow Cat

Campaign Log

Map of CothelLast Wednesday at Pawn & Pint is really two Wednesdays ago. For those that want to go to the beginning, here is the post that started this campaign 21 sessions ago.

On Wednesday, Rowan encountered an old acquaintance and agreed to help him with a particular problem. When Rowan told the rest of the party about the possibility to hunt down a Snow Cat from the north, they all decided to join in the fun (some for different reasons).

While Rowan was gathering supplies, he was spotted by Erik, a man in his mid-twenties who had known Rowan when they were in Antar. A mutual friend named Jessica had been their common link. Back in Antar, the three of them had engaged in less than legal activities before Rowan had been “recruited” into the Antar City Watch.  Therefore, Rowan was not surprised to know that Erik and Jessica had continued that line of work. Unfortunately, Erik had got himself into a spot of trouble and dragged Jessica down with him.

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Minimalism 2017 – Wrapup

Minimalism, the year in review

picture of Johnny Jump UpWell, I started 2017 with an aggressive goal: get rid of 2017 items in one year. Was I nuts? Did I fail? Was I a success?

I will have to say the results were mixed. I managed to get rid of 1017 of the 2017 item target, so by the numbers, I failed. However, I learned a lot and that cannot always be quantified by a single score.

In case you were wondering, here were the rules I set for myself at the beginning of last year.

What didn’t work

Well, to start with, 365 days to get rid of 2017 items is 5.526 items per day. No holidays or weekends. At the start of the year, I had a fair amount of low hanging fruit to purge and so I made some good progress, even getting ahead of schedule for quite some time. However, as the easy items disappeared, I had to spend more and more time going through things to evaluate them. Which meant that the early days of removing 30 items in 20 minutes turned into spending 30 minutes to get rid of 1 item. (Based on my rules, a folder with 150 sheets of paper to scan was 1 item.)

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Galvanizing Events

Galvanizing Events

Galvanizing CliffsA galvanizing event is one that fixes thought process, emotion, or decision to some particular course of action. Events that galvanize can be subtle, having built slowly over time, until a mere phrase or observed action will become the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back, spurring action. Or galvanizing events can be sudden and powerful, such as experiencing an unexpected loss or dramatic change in a person’s life.

Not all people experience truly galvanizing events in their lives. Others may experience them, but not be consciously aware (either due to the level of intensity of the event or as a result of a lack of self-awareness). Some who are more clinical in their appraisal of their own thought processes may recognize the exact moment in time that an event fixes a course of action in their mind and know that was a galvanizing event.

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Campaign Log: 1.21 – The Drunken Monk

Campaign Log

Forest CottageLast Wednesday at Pawn & Pint, Wibly ran into someone he had not seen in a while and Quai allowed a moment of idleness to impair his judgment.

The party had returned to Vantar the prior week. Rowan, Unferth, Howl, and Gemma had gone in search of some replacement equipment. Elrik left to find a playhouse for her play (leaving Rowan’s affections unrequited). That left Wilby, Quai, and Cynder to take care of their own supply needs.

As Wilby was walking through the city, and getting ready to head back out to the woods that surround this city in the western part of Cothel, a voice from his past stops him. He turns and finds Sergeant Alisar standing there. Wilby’s old commander is out of uniform and looking worse for wear.

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Campaign Log: 1.20 – The Mad Druid

Campaign Log

dead tree on the way to Blue Bird LakeDue to the lack of a time machine, last Wednesday at Pawn & Pint will be abbreviated this week.

The party, having left Gemma’s Cave and the abandoned city (because they didn’t want to release the “World Eater”) decided to head back to civilization and the city of Vantar. On the way, they encountered three Senzar soldiers who were frightened and fleeing a pack of wild animals.

Rowan agreed to accept their surrender and take them back to Vantar. However, as they camped for the night, a couple members of the party (or perhaps just Elrik) decided he would rather kill them and convinced Quai to do the deed. After which, the two of them tried to place the blame on Rowan.

As the two were in the process of placing evidence on Rowan, a group of bears and mountain lions attacked (the two murderers were supposed to be on watch). Soon to join the attack were also some dire wolves. The bears also tore into the Senzar, disrupting the evidence and then started on the party.

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