Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Dream Notes


I have some interesting dreams that I need to get around to translating into blog entry form, but I really kind of need to wait until I have a good chunk of time to do it. Right now I have only a few minutes, so I thought I'll just share some dream notes that date from the night between Dec. 17 and Dec. 18 and the night between Dec. 21 and Dec. 22. I don't really remember the dreams in question very well, but here we go anyway...

Dec. 17/Dec. 18:

Getting a pizza with Dad.
Wanted to talk to him about his dad. He seemed troubled about that.
Got into a giant truck. I was barefoot. Didn't think it would matter, but then I did.
Driving through a ghetto. Kids were getting in our way. Some of them were laughing about it. A lot of them had bicycles.
Then we were walking. The kids in front of me were very slow.
I had to keep telling them to get moving.
In a public restroom:
Working on a sound recording project. Put some files near computer to be ready for next time: files looked like mail/bills.
Kids were posting Peanuts comics on the wall. This was supposed to get them on the front page. Accidentally knocked down a HR/Strong Bad comic. Put it back up. The kids might get in trouble otherwise.
Videogame: S.B. flying a plane, passing through smaller and smaller rings at the center of a hollow sphere, luring a swarm of bees to be captured in a condensed object.
Claire and Luke Dunphy doing... something?

Dec. 21/Dec. 22:

Little house on Little Clavito street in place of alarm.
Left guitar in car overnight, warped it so that it won't tune correctly.
Walking w/ friend Alan.
Sitting in my bedroom playing guitar.
Little rodents running around.
Trying to accomplish something without waking teacher.
Woke teacher, got in trouble.
Singing in class, didn't know the words, we all got D's.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Time Dilation Program

The other day I was sitting in my Life in the Cosmos class, and "we" were having a "discussion" about the fact that light does not travel instantaneously from one point to another, and therefore the stars you see in the night sky actually appear as they existed some number of years ago, depending upon how distant they are.

I say "we" and "discussion," because what actually happened was that the professor mentioned the fact in passing, and then every single person in the class except for me proceeded to ask a question to the effect of "wait, did you say that we're seeing the star as it existed years ago?"

I'm exaggerating a little, but I was nonetheless extremely frustrated.

In any case, thinking about the concept of seeing things as they were rather than as they are got me thinking about whether such a phenomenon might be useful or interesting in video games. Braid plays around with time in a lot of ways that are very suggestive to me of quantum mechanics, and more importantly, in ways that are extremely effective as gameplay mechanics. But this is one particular phenomenon that we didn't see. At least, I'm not aware that we saw it.

In any case, before going to bed last night I sat down and spent a few hours writing a small simple simulation to test the idea. You can download it here. As far as I know, it will only run in Windows.

When you run the program, you will see a number of circles appear on the screen. With the cursor keys, you can move the green one around, and you will immediately notice that the other circles' movements are affected by the green one's position. In particular, the nearer the green circle is to them, the more current the solid circle's position appears to you (i.e. the more closely it overlaps the hollow circle that represents the circle's actual position). Furthermore, when nearer the green circle, the other circles become bluer and move more slowly, whereas when farther away, they become redder and move more quickly. This was kind of an afterthought that I added when I started thinking about gravitational time dilation and color shifting.

By pressing the S key, you can hide the hollow circles. By holding shift, you can double the speed of the green circle. 

And just to be clear, this post is not about a dream. However, after coding this, I went to bed and I did have a dream about coding it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Quantum Faith

Sometimes we go up to religious mountain retreats. It's what we do. Or, at least, in my case, it's what we used to do. In fact, I'm not sure if I should still be included when I say "we." I haven't been religious for years now.

Anyway, we decided to go again to the mountains, for old times sake. We needed drivers to shepherd groups of people up there, and so I volunteered.

On the way up, I noticed that the roads had become much more precarious than in previous years, but I was fully confident in my own driving abilities, and so I proceeded with accelerated aplomb.

Aplomb, it turned out, was not enough. At one particularly sharp turn around a precipice, my car tore right over the edge of the road and plummeted into the chasm below. Amidst the shrieking of my passengers, however, I kept my cool. I depressed the "reset" button on my dashboard, and instantly

I noticed that the roads had become much more precarious than in previous years, so although I was fully confident in my own driving abilities, I applied the brake gingerly and took the next corner with caution. Amidst the complaints of slowness coming from my passengers in the backseat, I kept my cool. I informed them with authority that I was travelling as quickly as could be considered prudent. After all, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure.

Later, upon arriving at the campsite, I observed that we were evidently to be staying in a new building. The only problem, then, was that the building had yet to be constructed. In fact, the previous building was still undergoing demolition. Irked, I volunteered to help move things along and immediately began tearing planks of wood from the old framework with my bare hands.

Once the new building was ready to be constructed, I made that process move much more quickly with another trick: I showed the other workers how to file the materials down to the correct size using only one's own hair. Impressed with my knowledge and the time saved by my wisdom, they gave me the rest of the afternoon off.

My wife and I made for the music superstore that had recently opened nearby. We'd heard that they had absolutely everything. It was only a short drive from the campsite, and so we decided it would be a fair use of our newfound free time to take a look.

The place was a disappointment. Not the music, no. They really did have literally everything. The problem was that they didn't offer us any place to sit down. No chairs!

In retrospect, upon arriving once again at the campsite, I realized that there had been chairs all over the store at little listening stations where one could sit and listen to music before purchasing it. But I had continued to wander the store in search of a place to sit as though I couldn't find one. How puzzling.

Others had arrived at the campsite when we got back. In particular, the guest speaker had arrived and was intent on speaking to me. It seems that someone had tattled about my... ahem... recently acquired heathendom.

No worries. I am quite willing to speak about my present state of religious limbo, and so I welcomed the chance to get another's perspective. After all, the guy looked kind of like Richard Jenkins and sounded exactly like Harry Dean Stanton. So naturally I thought maybe he might have some ideas that were worth something.

So we walked together--really, I slid down the stairs on my socks--he and I and the other religious group leader who was, as always, present. I told him about my past, how I feel, where I am. How I neither believe nor disbelieve any particular idea about the nature of God's existence. How I do not believe that I have a personal relationship with God. How I do not believe that I know anything at all about God. How I wish that I did know something about him. How I wish that I did have a personal relationship with him. How I wish I could believe some idea about God's existence.

He told me that often prayer reduces to asking for things, and this can be a little petty.

I told him that my prayers usually only have to do with knowing God.

He said, "If he told us we know, then we'd know." The other leader seemed unimpressed by this, but I assumed that the guy was just trying to be cryptic. So I started trying to reason what exactly he meant.

He continued, saying, "Your computer programs are your messages to God."

I'd never thought of anything of the sort. What could he have meant?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Craps and Music (and Independent Game Development)

I haven't had a really solid narrative dream to blog about for quite some time now, so that explains why I haven't been around here too much lately. I know all you readers are probably just bursting at the seams trying to restrain yourself from saying something disapproving, but have no fear! I am still alive and sleeping every night, and sooner or later a good dream is bound to come along.

Actually, the truth is that I have a couple sheets of dream notes that I need to blog about, but I lost my steam a little bit with this blog. I don't think it's quite dead at this point. I think I am still going to keep up this blog from time to time. But I don't think it'll be particularly frequent.

Last night, I did have two dreams that I can vaguely remember. Though most of the details are gone, I do remember a couple really basic concepts from them, so let me share...

The first involved learning to play Craps. I don't gamble. I'm good enough at math to know how bad an idea it really is. So I'm a little hazy on how exactly the game of Craps works, but in my dream world, I was learning how to play it. It seemed to be a bit more like Roulette in the dreamspace, except not so entirely up to chance. There was actually some significant element of skill in placing bets, and in fact, it was not really that hard to win. I got myself ahead quite easily and started to develop a crowd of old ladies who were impressed by my ability.

Then, somebody was being mugged in another part of the casino, and I alone sprang into action. When I got back from rescuing the victim, the old ladies had stolen my winnings.

Upon waking, I realized that my subconscious does not understand Craps at all.

The second dream involved a former college peer named Matt Glickstein visiting my apartment for some musical reason. I think he was listening to rare Avenged Sevenfold B-sides on my computer.

You might remember that I've mentioned Matt before on this blog. He was the other Music Composition major in my year at the University of Redlands, and I've always admired his music because he has such a knack for writing effective songs. I usually don't write songs. While at University I think I never wrote songs, and although I probably felt at the time that it was because I didn't like the traditional song-based structure for music, I think now that part of it might have been that I wasn't very good at it. Matt is good at it. You should go listen to his songs, and then buy his album.

I think he was listening to Avenged Sevenfold because yesterday I was reading about Mike Portnoy's departure from Dream Theater and trying to figure out why some of his fans were upset with something that he had said. I couldn't find any reference to what he said or did to make them mad. Anyway, until recently Portnoy was also the touring drummer of Avenged Sevenfold. I don't listen to them really. I used to listen to Dream Theater a lot, but not so much now.

The other reason that I haven't been blogging very much is because I'm trying to complete an album of my own. Once that happens, I will probably link to it from this website, but it'll have its own website, and I expect I will focus more on that one than this one.

I'm also trying to get myself solidly into independent game development. I've been inspired by two guys mostly: Terry Cavanagh and Jonathan Blow. Their games have had a deep effect on me. Particularly, three of Cavanagh's games: VVVVVV, Pathways, and Don't Look Back. And Blow's Braid, which has affected me in a way that no other game ever has.

I'm starting to write down all the ideas I have for small games that I might be able to complete without too much difficulty. Usually my ambition defeats me. Even projects that start small eventually become huge and are subsequently abandoned. This will not do. So I'm trying to force myself to keep my ideas small, and when I attempt to create them, I will do so as quickly as I can. Getting a few projects done, whether or not they are particularly good, is my current goal.

Of course, as I am presently working on a Computer Science degree, it may be slightly difficult to find time to work on that stuff.

I think I might be spreading myself a little too thin.