2016 Roundup

Holy crap. 2016 was a year. A notable one, at that. Kind of a lot happened. Let’s start with the cool stuff.

Stars

So after a pretty lengthy process of contribution and assistance with the project to re-open Lake Afton Public Observatory, I was voted in as an official board member. It’s my first board-spot ever, and it’s involving science and space, so it’s safe to say that young Seth would be pretty dang excited to have heard about this.

I also started regularly volunteering out there so a couple nights a month you can come visit me and I’ll show you how amazing space is with a huge telescope. Unless it’s cloudy, then I’ll just tell you how cool it is and you’ll get 50% off your next visit. Shameless plug.

Synthesis

Just scraping in under the deadline, I bought my first real synthesizer in December. Over the last couple years my musical interests have shifted a bit as the band was finished and I took on a bit less of a role musically at church. I started looking at what I could do to keep growing and decided to focus on piano and keys for a while.

Plus, for some reason 2016 was the year of Synthwave music for me. Holy crap do I love that genre. It all started with this music video:

Anyway, I picked up my synth and have basically been in love with it. It’s my favorite instrument by a long shot. I have a list of other synths I’d love to have someday and most of them are from the 80’s. 

I swear, something about that decade’s music is just better. And now with the resurgance of synthwave we’re getting a huge push of modern-instrumented and better-mixed 80’s music and it’s basically my favorite thing ever.

4 Score

Back in April the VW broke down again and I about had a mental breakdown to coincide with it. The VW is literally the worst thing I’ve ever owned. Naomi describes it as our dysfunctional relationship. We spent over $4500 in the last two years in repairs, all the while hoping that this time it’ll be great and new. 

Spoiler alert: it never was. I snapped.

I rage-traded-in our two cars and we bought a 4Runner and holy crap it’s fantastic. It’s by far my favorite car I’ve ever owned and not because it’s boring. It’s just so good at everything it does. It’s smooth, has great power, lots of room, great speakers. It’s the nicest car I’ve owned for sure, and it’s only second in mileage to my Mercedes. 

210,000 miles, my friend. 

This thing is a tank. I love it.

An EVEn 10

In March I hit the grand, ridiculous milestone of having played EVE Online for ten years. Look, I love the game a lot, but even I realize this is hilarious. 

However, I truly have made friends, at least one of which I talk to near-daily, and many I consider close enough to crash on their couches whenever I finally make it to their respective corners of the planet someday.

But yeah, it’s been fun to see the game evolve over that time. In fact, a historian found the game history so interesting he actually wrote a book about the big wars between players that have taken place over the years. Naomi bought me that book for my birthday and it’s awesome. I actually personally know many of the people involved in the book. It’s neat.

Plus, there is genuinely a real life monument in Iceland with my character name on it. For all time, the names “MrTiddles” will be emblazoned in stone for all to see. Or until a volcano erupts outside Reykjavík and melts it.

Loss

2016 went down as one of those weird years that was super bad for celebrities dying. However, 2016 didn’t feel like that was enough and decided, for good measure, it was going to be the year my other Grandpa died.

We sort of knew he’d been super sick, but weren’t sure how long things were going to last. I was oddly-affected by his passing. I got the call while doing rehearsal for a big production of Handel’s Messiah so I sort of had to push it into the back of my mind until afterward to process.

Here’s a video of my family when I was real young hanging out at Grandpa Duncan’s house. The part around the 10:00 mark is where you see him teaching me how to shoot a blow-gun. I still have that blow-gun.

In a weird turn of events, a friend of mine actually bought this house from my Grandma a few years back so I still spend a lot of time over there. 

I wasn’t nearly as close with Grandpa Duncan as I had been with Grandpa Bolen, especially in the last ten years, but the two of them had been friends since childhood so in a way it was sort of like another part of Grandpa Bolen died too. 

End of the Year

And, you know, since so many good things happened in 2016, it really packed in the crappy things for the end of the year. We were all riddled will illness the final two weeks of the year and had to skip birthday and some Christmas festivities we had planned.

On the other hand, some people claim that a new year is a fresh start, but I don’t really dig the artificial deadline of years because I’m a time-minimalist, not a chrono-consumerist. 2017 is going to be rad, not because it’s 2017, but because I’m going to do a lot of stuff to make it cool.

So, in the immortal words of Mario, “here we goooooo”

Editor’s note: I realize this post is two weeks late. I got busy. 

In Full Swing

The holidays are absolutely here, as if there were any question about that. 

Our tree is mercilessly flinging pine needles on our floor in an act of arboreal defiance. My egg-nog expires today. My ongoing weather-chart took a nosedive (see below), and if I hear Mariah Carey on the radio one more time I’m going to go burn down an unoccupied barn somewhere.

So, this weekend did not go as planned, but many fun things happened anyway. Here’s the rundown.

Friday

Friday afternoon we had our company Christmas party at Sabor. I tried calamari again and was reminded about how two things can look so similar but taste so different. Squid =/= onion rings. 

After the Christmas party us and the other kids took Naomi’s parents out to Kobe for their 40th wedding anniversary. hoemygawd. I hadn’t been there since I was a kid and thought it was more about the show than the taste. I was so, so wrong. Best. Fried rice. Ever.

I ate too much though.

Saturday

For some reason Thing 1 asked my wife to buy our cats a Butternut Squash on their shopping trip, so now our cats have a Butternut Squash.

It also snowed, which was kinda nice. We’d had some flurries a few weeks back but this was the first accumulation. Thing 1 and Thing 2 were both turbo excited for snow. Then it snowed more. Then it got cold. Really cold. Like 1* cold. We stayed in for the evening. I worked on the Lake Afton website and drank Egg Nog like a boss.

Sunday

Sunday morning was a turning point. We’d had a few rough nights because Thing 2 had been sick and kept us up by crying and needing-to-be-held-constantly. Saturday night had not been kind to us. He’d developed a rash, probably in response to the antibiotics, so I stayed home from church with him while the ladies went ahead.

I got a call from my wife after church asking what I wanted for my birthday lunch. I verbally shrugged and she interpreted that as “Chicken Fried Rice from Little Saigon” which was perfect, especially after a hard night and morning. Then she called back that she was stranded because the car wouldn’t start. 

This effectively torched my plans to go see Rogue One and to have people over for games. So that was fun. I rounded out the day by playing several hours of Rocket League, which helped bring the day back under control a bit.

Also I spent time reading through Empires of Eve, which my wife gave to me as a gift. It’s pretty much my favorite gift in a long time.

I’m getting to the point in life where I can’t expect plans to go through. It’s more of a “make plans and hope for the best” scenario. 

That’s ok, sometimes it works out. Other times, I get to be spontaneous. 

Music

I released 40 songs on Soundcloud this week.

You can listen here

If you’re wondering “why” and “how”, it’s mainly because you likely know I write music, but you probably haven’t heard much of what I’ve written. That’s because I have a problem sharing my music. For some reason I love to get songs to where I’m 80% happy and then stop working on them.

Last week the battery on my laptop died, which took out my primary music-production system. For years I’d been wanting to find a new way to sort and catalog the music I write but it was a daunting task and I’d never felt like I had the time. The laptop tanking forced my hand. I dove into my catalog to organize and sort of catch-up with everything I’d written.

I was super annoyed with what I found.

I found nearly 200 songs in various states of completion. Around a dozen had ever seen the light of day, mostly through my Robot Fairytale album. I was kind of ashamed.

I did some soul-searching and realized that the primary things keeping me from finishing songs could be boiled down to a short list:

  • I’m afraid of embarrassing myself by releasing bad music
  • I’m afraid I won’t be happy with the song after I call it “done”
  • My music is badly organized so it’s hard to find what I want and work on it

These are all stupid reasons. 

So, this week I uploaded 40 songs to my Soundcloud page. They range from piano music to scores for short-films, to dance music. Many of them could have been worked-on more, but I’m basically writing them off as “old” and calling them incomplete, taking the lessons and moving forward.

I’m changing my philosophy on music because my old philosophy sucks and didn’t work.

It’s (Probably) Not Bad Music

Going forward, I’m making my music available as it’s written. Whether it’s on Soundcloud or my own website, it’ll be out there because it forces my hand. One of my primary reasons for not doing this earlier was simply the question “why would anyone buy my music if they could have just listened to it for free?” The answer is simply “who cares?” I believe I write music for myself, it’s a language all my own, and I can tell stories and speak emotions through it, but I don’t do it because I want you to like it. I do it for me. 

I had to face the question “if you knew nobody would ever pay you for any of your music, would you still do it?” Yep. I absolutely would. That ended that point.

Finish Your Music

I can almost always find something to change in a song, but at some point it has to be done. I realized that if I call a song “complete” and then later on decide there’s something I don’t like about it, does that make it a bad song? Nope. Take the lesson and remember it next time you write a new song. 

This is a fine line though. You never want to be guilty of hurriedly releasing music, but I think I was swinging so hard on the “work it to perfection” side of things that I was burning myself out.

Organization Matters

I never spent the time to organize my music, let alone my plugins, my samples, and all the other mess that goes along with music production so finding things I wanted to work on, or worse, finding sounds that I needed for songs I wanted to finish, has always been a giant challenge for me.

I’ve started spending time going through my sample packs, VSTs, and other things to find the sounds I truly like. I’ve also moved all my music to my Google Drive and organized it there, along with my samples, VSTs, and other files. Everything lives in one place now.

My songs are basically all unique folders, one for each song, sorted by date. I mainly write music song-by-song rather than on an album-level so this organization makes sense for me. It still allows me the flexibility to change things up if I decide to try a concept album or something crazy.

But now that things are organized, the mountain of crap doesn’t seem so daunting.

And things are moving forward. Hopefully quickly. I have a lot of musical ideas I want to get out of my head.

Happy Birthday Dude

In the last year you’ve cracked me up, made me cry, and puked right after I took you off my shoulders no less that three times. Thanks for that. 

I’ll make you a deal. I’ll try to find a house to buy with a back yard you can play in if you try to sleep through the night in your own crib. Deal?

*hat tip*

Jack O Lantern

Autumn

Jack O LanternI love autumn so much. Somehow it brings out my inner introvert.

The weather really starts changing noticeably during October, and you end up with the perfect combination of shorter days and reasonable temperatures. This inevitably leads to cool, sweater-clad, dark evenings that require a fire which perfects the ambiance. 

Autumn is so niceAnd then there’s the inevitable video-gaming at night nostalgia. I’ve spent hundreds of hours of my life holed up in an office with the only light provided by a scented candle and the computer monitor while desperately trying to carve out a living for myself in some open-world game either based in space or some fantasy-world full of monsters and elves.

In the space of just over a month the world transforms between a dismembered-head-pumpkin-fest to a browns-and-reds tinted cornucopia of fake-food decorations with pumpkin-flavored-everything, followed by a shift to white-and-red attempts to force snow, but not so early that it’s gross by Christmas Eve.

Beyond the weather, the holidays, the general nostalgia-fest of the seasons, I think it’s the tempo and the change that inspire me the most. There’s really no other time in my life where I feel the world moving and changing as much as I want to. 

So yeah, that’s why I once wrote a screenplay about why Autumn is the best season. 

WHAT. THE. HECK.

Prancing Pony

Last night I was watching Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring with my daughter. When Frodo and the gang hit up the Prancing Pony Inn in the village of Bree, the barkeep asks for his name. Frodo, knowing “Baggins” isn’t safe to use, uses the name “Underhill.”
That name rang a bell for me. I then remembered that when I was a kid there was a commercial for Larry Underhill, a local realtor. It had a jingle that went like this:

“Larry Underhill will, the realtor that makes, the realtor that makes the difference.”

So I sort of laughed remembering that from my childhood. Then went about our evening.

Five minutes ago my sister sent me a voice memo of her singing that jingle.

I understandably was taken aback. It is Halloween week after all and spooky things happen, but this was excessive. I asked what made her sing that, she said it randomly popped into her head last night. I told her about watching the movie last night around 6-ish.

She said it popped into her head around the exact. same. time.

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