Displaying 1 - 5 of 22 entries.

Relaxation with Meditation and ASMR

  • Posted on July 26, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Over the last few years I’ve started to adopt some practices to help reduce the impact of stress in my life. One such practice is daily meditation. I had meditated occasionally in the past but it wasn’t until I attended a meditation group with my partner a few years ago that I started to make it a more routine practice.

Two of the tools that helped me expand my practice were the books Mindfulness in Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana and Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. They helped me explore both mindfulness and Zen meditation styles. But even with all those resources I sometimes sought out guided meditation videos on Youtube to help me relax. It was through this searching, combined with a short-lived interest in binaural beats, that I came across the following video by Youtuber Ephemeral Rift.

That was my first experience with the phenomena known as ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response). I had experienced it many times before then but I didn’t have a name for it. It was the relaxing, pleasant tingling sensation I’d feel in my scalp whenever someone was paying close personal attention to me, such as going to the hair stylist or seeing a dentist, as long as no drills were involved.

The idea that a simple Youtube video could have such a profound relaxing effect was amazing. How it worked was simple even: certain sounds, when listened to with both ears, or binaurally which is why I found it in the first place, can trigger ASMR. My list turned out to contain triggers such as whispering, crinkling, water being sprayed, and hair being brushed to name a few.

There have been a few psychological studies to study this phenomena, some of which I have participated in. If you want more info on one such study you can click on the ASMR link above to an ASMR research site or you can check out this ASMR research Facebook group. I’m looking forward to reading some of the theories regarding this phenomena and its potential social origins.

Publishing and Free Culture Licensing Revisited

  • Posted on July 24, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Nine months ago I posted an article about Free Culture and self-publishing and as I get closer to the final draft of one of my novels I find myself reexamining the proposal I made back then. Should I self-publish and should that creative work be published under a free culture license, such as the CC-BY-SA license that I use for this blog?

My situation has changed since then: I got married and move back to Wisconsin with my partner to support her during her last year of graduate school for her counseling degree. To best help her I need to have a steady income which creates most of the conflict when deciding what route to publish my novel. While I could certainly get a job in IT, given my background and education, there is a certain joy in the prospect of being able to earn a living based on my creative works.

I have many other works including several more novels, a visual novel, a complex programming project, and a video game on my to-do list which could readily provide the much needed financial support. However, in the interests of getting them done in a timely manner I’ve limited myself to only doing major work on one project at a time which leaves me with my novel. The question is: can I self-publish my novel under a free license and still earn a livable wage?

That was my question at first but I quickly realized that it wasn’t what I was really getting at because the simple answer to the question is: yes, you can, people have done so in the past. It then becomes a question of comfort: am I comfortable releasing my work in hopes that I will get paid for it while putting the entire task of promoting it on myself? Would I feel more comfortable trying to get my novel published traditionally, at least initially?

I should be posting information about my new novel, “Stonewall Rising” within a few months. It all depends on if I can finish this draft and prepare cover art before my wedding.

The thing that makes a CC-BY-SA license so powerful for my work is also the thing that terrifies me the most: it makes my work inherently free (as in gratis). In doing so it makes it legal to share it with anyone and everyone which has the potential of creating a wider readership. It also could mean that I could earn nothing at all from my work.

Reading Rainbow

  • Posted on June 1, 2014 at 9:55 am

About a year ago I posted about coming out of depression and rediscovering my feelings. Embedded in that story was a remix of some of the old Reading Rainbow episodes that I used watch when I was a younger. I remember sitting around a TV in my school’s library with my entire class so we could watch Reading Rainbow together. It helped break up the monotony of the day and most certainly lead to my increased interest in books.

Now LeVar Burton and his team are working to bring the collection of Reading Rainbow books and digital field trips onto the web with help from backers on Kickstarter. Within one day they quickly obtained their goal of $1,000,000 that will allow them to create this web resource and bring a specialized version into over 1,500 classrooms. Now they’re edging ever closer to their next goal, $5,000,000, which will allow them to reach 7,500 classrooms and create apps for iOS, Android, gaming consoles, and set-top boxes so that they can reach a wider audience. Reading Rainbow, Mr Roger’s Neighborhood, and many other PBS television shows helped me to explore and learn as I was growing up but as they point out in their Kickstarter, the world is changing. Television is no longer the best way to engage with today’s children.

I look forward to seeing how their Kickstarter campaign progresses. Equipping future generations with the tools needed to increase their literacy and engagement with books is certainly something I can get behind. If you haven’t pledged to the campaign yet, I’d urge you to take a look.

Appreciation

  • Posted on November 10, 2013 at 11:02 am

There was a time when I thought that depression and anxiety were the only self-sustaining emotional cycles the mind has. Happiness was something to strive for, a fleeting reward. It wasn’t until later that I found a similar positive feedback loop: appreciation or kindness. When you tell someone how much you appreciate them you will, inevitably, feel good about it. There’s some research to suggest that showing gratitude does have a positive effect on mood (and I can dig up some of those articles and cite them if anyone is interested). Where the feedback loop begins is that when you’re happy you’re more likely to show appreciation and kindness to others.

After realizing that I had been failing to express my appreciation for others I went on a long spree of doing so. I connected with friends, colleagues, instructors, and family members. With each person I was open and honest about why I appreciated them. I brought up past memories, good traits, and the feelings that came with them. It was one of the most natural and easy things I’ve have done which left me a tad puzzled as to why I hadn’t been doing it before. More than that, why weren’t more people doing it?

There are a lot of explanations for why we don’t. Most prominent among them is that, at least in the US, we tend to live in a rather cynical world. Expressing emotions is seen as dangerous and perhaps even maladaptive. Furthermore, happiness is not something that should be our natural state, or so society would have us believe. We need to buy it. We give our time, our possessions, and the very lifeblood in our veins. The problem with that is that the cost-to-benefit ratio is rather large which leaves us drained if we try to go about obtaining our happiness there.

So, thank you dear reader. I don’t know how many of you there are nor do I hear from you very often (at this point) but I sincerely appreciate that you’ve taken the time to read my blog. I may write the blog for myself and my own reasons but I still enjoy having it read. Once written that is the purpose of most any written work, after all.

I would also like to thank the wonderful folks over at the Free Software Foundation. The meetings I’ve had with them at LibrePlanet and beyond have been phenomenal and the work they support is important and helpful beyond measure.

I would also like to thank the following software projects who help me day-to-day with the software I use (check them out, they’re awesome!):

 

Rhythos RPG Builder – Continued

  • Posted on November 8, 2013 at 10:00 am

I posted earlier about Rhythos RPG Builder: a project by David Maletz of Fancy Fish Games. The Kickstarter did not meet its goal but it did get something just as valuable out of the whole experience: a community. As I will touch on in a later post building community is one of the top priorities for any free software project. It’s the community members who drive the development and improve how the software functions. With a strong community a project can thrive. Perhaps in the future, thanks to the hard work of this growing community, a future crowd-funding attempt will be successful and Rhythos can jump forward as a major player in indie RPG development.

I have interacted with the community a few times on their IRC channel and they have been very welcoming and openly supportive. I would definitely recommend trying Rhythos out as the platform for creating your next RPG. I had an idea bouncing around in my head for a game that I was originally learning Ren’Py to produce but rather than that I decided on using Rhythos. Once it finally gets to a demo-able point I’ll write something up about it and post  a detailed review of Rhythos and my experiences with it.

As Steam is preparing for a very strong GNU/Linux push with their Steam Machines and SteamOS announcements it will be good for projects like Rhythos. But, more importantly, Steam needs projects like Rhythos. Not in the traditional sense but rather in the context of software freedom. If projects like Rhythos thrive then it becomes easier to develop games that are also free software. While a platform like Steam is good for GNU/Linux overall (particularly in driver development and support) the main concern is that more proprietary software will find its way to the operating system. Most of the games on Steam are proprietary and the client itself is as well.

Rhythos may allow for the development of proprietary titles but that is akin to scientific research. As Richard Feynman mentioned: The ability to do something is worthwhile. Whether or not the tool is used to unlock the gates to heaven or hell is up to those who use it. In this regard Rhythos is in-line with the FSF’s explanation of when to use LGPL for your library. There exist many proprietary game-creation suites and Rhythos provides a free software alternative. This is in contrast to the project I am working on for my research which we were originally going to license under the LGPL but when I read the description I came to the conclusion that the GPL would be more fitting since we’re providing unique functionality (and, additionally, free software is very much in line with the spirit of academic collaboration).