How do you spell cookie?

I decided to write something here. No, don’t try to convince me otherwise, I’m going to write something.

Yes, I believe I shall talk to myself out loud.

Or maybe on screen.

Which brings up an interesting and cliched line of thought about digital existance.

For the majority of computer users, the computer is not the screen, hard drive or CPU. It is the interface with the computer that makes it what it is.

The programs you can use, the files, the familiar settings and destinations – these are the things people see when they think of computers.

The joy is not in the hardware. There is little beauty in for the typical person in a beige (or candy colored) box that sits there whirring and glowing. The most interaction you will get from the hardware is the power button and cd-rom – and even those are controlled with a code of some sort.

Every function the machine can perform is abstracted by a layer of software. Many layers in fact. The hardware is nothing more and nothing less than a platform on which instructions can be performed.

This leads me to wonder – is there any analogy from reality for the relationship between the code and the machine?
The first idea that comes to mind is that of the human psyche vs the human body. Our mind, our soul exists within our bodies, and our body provides the necessary platform for the existance of the mind.
Close, but there is a problem. We do not and cannot exist apart from our bodies while on this earth. We have a consciousness within every part of our bodies.
Close your eyes. Now think about your foot. How does it feel right now. What position is it in? Is it touching anything? Is it inside of anything? Gently try to visualise the position of your foot. Are your toes pointing up, or are they curled under? It it taller or wider?
Which foot did you chose to think about?

You were able, without looking, to determine things about your foot. You didn’t have to check, you knew. Your body’s system of senses extend into your foot, making you wholly aware of it because it is part of you.

In humans – and all living things – the code and the machine are one in the same. From the passing of electrical impulses in the brain to the repair of bones, it is all the result of extremely complicated programming. The programming language itself forms the building block of our physical being.
Skin is made up largely of protein. This protein is constructed one amino acid at a time from a “blueprint” called RNA. This blurprint is housed in the archive facility at the center of every cell the DNA. Each and every cell has the same DNA, but it does entirely different things in different places.

We don’t really know why.

Alas I digress. The crux of the analogy is the brain. Our thoughts do not exist apart from the structure of our brain. Thoughts are not an entity that can be erased or removed – they are inherent to the physical orientation and connection of our neurons. Our “processor” is upgraded every time we have a new idea.

No, this is contrary to a computer. A computer’s capability to crunch numbers is set in stone, and no software can “grow” you a new transistor. Computer viruses do not infect anything beyond the data. For a human, there is little discerning between data and storage.

Back to the drawing board it seems.


Well, that was interesting.

Did I say interesting, I meant awesome! I mean wow. The singing, and the guitar playing – I’d never really been a huge fan of guitar but this guy is incredible.

I went to see Monte Montgomery at the Eau Claire house of rock.
Did I say house of rock? I meant apartment of rock.

It was a bar with a stage and no ventilation system. The smoke was so thick it was hard to see the stage. Quite a number of the people were scummy and, well, drunk.

There were no seats really – a couple of tiny tables and bar stools in the stage area, and a couple pool tables in the outer area. Needless to say, the stage area was packed in like a can of sardines. I avoided the stage area – primarily because I couldn’t find any earplugs on the way there :-(. So I stood with Corey on the other side of the bar and watched from there – while Chad had to be right in the middle of the other side – literally.

So my eyes were burning, my ears hurt, my back hurt, I went there extremely fatigued and ready to collapse.

Why so negative, you ask?

Why, only to provide a stark contrast for the amazing performance of Monte and his little Trio. My feet don’t hurt, my back is fine – everything I would normally have considered unpleasant about the experience melted away as Monte played song after song. Each one features some singing – Monte has quite a range and versatility and harmonizes well with the bass Guitarist. The singing was controlled and solid – despite the wicked speed of his hands on the guitar.

And then somewhere in each song a nice instrumental revery comes in. Monte plays a six string acoustic guitar, but you would never know from some of the songs. Using a combination of reverberation, wicked fast fingers and harmonics, he makes that acoustic sound like an electric – with distortion and not. He plays bass notes and melody simultaneously. He plays multiple, harmonizing melodies at the same time. Heck, half the time you couldn’t tell what instrument he was playing, it was just invigoration and beautiful.

His guitar has no whammy bar, and yet he makes due – bending the neck of the guitar to accomplish the same effect.

In this particular show, the band left the stage and was called back by the crowd. Monte came out alone and started playing a soft melody – very typically acoustic – and added layer after layer of complexity from just his guitar. All this time, he was creating an echo effect with his hands. Neither of us could imagine how he was doing it, but he had control over it, and there was no external effects. The low notes would be echoing while the high notes did not.
I’d say this went on for a good five minutes, then the other two members came out. They accompanied for a while and stepped back, allowing Monte to continue another amazing solo. Then they all came in, suddenly but smoothly at the exact perfect moment.
That right there was incredible. They didn’t skip a beat, didn’t miss a note. Corey says my jaw dropped.

The next 10 minutes I experiences some of the most awe inspiring instrumental work I’ve ever heard. AS I watched him tearing at the strings, I began to wonder just how he kept that thing in tune through the beating it endured. Shortly thereafter, as if he heard my question, he held up the guitar while it was playing a chord, and twisted the tuner for one of the strings way down – it was quite an effect, a very potent pitch-bend. Did he stop there? No. He continued to play this detuned guitar for a while more, finishing up the song without a single note out of place.

After the concert, I went to do what every freshly awed individual must do – buy a CD. I wasn’t planning on waiting for him to come over and give autographs, but he showed up almost immediately. I was the second person to get my CD signed, and got to shake his hand. After what I had just experienced and seen this man do, I was honored to get to meet him in person.

If you ever get a chance to see this guy, do it. You will be amazed. I lucked out at $10 cause I live in Eau Claire, but it was worth well more than that. It was worth the purning eyes and ringing ears. I’d do it again in a heartbeat (but with earplugs next time :-D)

Heh, I also got to show off my mad pool skills (or lack thereof). One of the guys has a pool table at home. Needless to say he thrashed me.

Well, thus ends my day. I have to go wash the smoke off cause I smell like an ashtray. People need to quit smoking – it’s just so aweful. Tragic really that people feel the need to drink and smoke at such things – rather then enjoying and respecting the music and the company of others.

God bless!

Must games be difficult?

As a youth, I never particularly liked games. Board games, card games – they bore or frustrate me to no end. At first it’s fun, but as the game drags on I become tired of playing, but cannot just quit – oh no the game must be finished, and somebody must win!

I also hated losing.

Move forward a little to video games.

Video games on consoles are hard. They are designed so that you have to play them over and over ad nauseum until you can memorize the terrain and entrance of bad guys, thus winning the game.

I don’t understand how anybody can consider this fun. You make it almost to the end of the level, and have to do the whole darned thing over again. Why? Why do you ever have a limited number of lives? Why must the game end – and the player have to start over from the beginning – when they lose all their lives?

Tell me, WHY!

It doesn’t take brains to repeat the same 5-minute level 16 times until you master it. It’s no innate skill that allows you to memorize where the boss will strike and exactly when to jump because you’ve wasted 4 hours getting there.

That is not fun. It is not fun to work and work and work and have it all lost because the game designers want to make sure you are challenged.

Well I for one do not consider that a challenge – I consider it an exercise in futility.

When I play video games, I like to explore. I like to see if I can get into the back room. I like to talk to the NPCs. I like to be impressed by the graphics and music, to be drawn into the story line.

It is difficult to be drawn into the story line when you have to repeat the same mission 25 times before you complete it.

Take Max Payne 2, for example. It has a fabulous story line, great attention to detail, lots of ways you can mess with stuff and people…

I tried to play this game without cheating. Then I reached the dance club. Impossible. You are stuck – a single person with one gun in a building full of thugs who want you dead. Worse than that, they can fell you with one or two hits. This might be acceptible if it didn’t take you 4 shots to kill them.

WTF!?! Is that fun? A friend of mine managed to beat that section without cheating. It took him DAYS. He spent all his free time playing that game – he was good.

Once again I ask you, how is that fun? Challenging? Sure. Relieving? I suppose. But about as much fun as dropping a gigantic load.

Pc games are much better than console games however. When a console game is too easy (meaning it can be beat in less than 4 days) it receives terrible reviews and ends up in the bargain bin. A game designer can either make a longer game with a better storyline and more character involvement…. Or they can just make it so hard that people have to repeat vast segments over and over and over and over until they complete the game.

What we need is the equivalent of toys.

A toy is something you play with. You use your imagination and your creativity to amuse yourself. You build things. You break things. You set things up and knock them down. You pretend. You create the challenge youself in what you want to accomplish.

Katamari Damacy is an example of a Toy game. It is a little challenging, but you can beat the game without having to replay many of the scenarios. After you’ve beat it, you can continue to hone your skills and get more stuff – but the game is just fun and relaxing. It’s easy, but if you set your goal for something hard – it can be.

Lemmings is another example. That game was fun!

And how about The Incredible Machine? You didn’t have to do anything but play around if you didn’t want to.

To be continued – sleepy time calls

Check this out

Wednesday March 15th: Monte Montgomery Concert

Monte Montgomery will be playing an evening show @ The House of Rock in Eau Claire this month. He is one of the best acoustic guitar players in the world! If you have any interest in music or playing the guitar you will want to attend this event. Here is a review from his Austin City Limits event. I also attached a couple links if you would like to see some of his playing.

The review of his act by Austin City Limits said, “Monte Montgomery blows people away. There is no other way to describe it… Like Michael Jordan defying the impossible with an air-filled leather ball on the hardwood, Montgomery makes his strings produce sounds that obliterate notions of what one human is capable of pulling-off on this simple instrument. Glance around the room wherever he plays and witness wall-to-wall looks of sheer slack-jawed astonishment.”

Watch those videos. Holy wa! You’d better believe I’m going!