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Sean Plays the Jazz

June 24, 2018

I recently revisited and listened to an old recording of me doing some jazz improvisation on the piano.

I was teaching myself how to read music for the piano and most of these are exercises I was doing to follow along with the Music Theory by Hal Leonard book I was studying from.

To create these tracks I used 3 pieces of equipment: Roland SP-606, Axiom49 MIDI Keyboard and Logic Pro on iMac.

I'd come up with a little jazzy drum loop using the Roland, then open up Logic Pro and find the grand piano. I'd loop the drum loop for 2-4 minutes and hit record, and then do some piano improv over the drums.

I created these tracks in Miami, FL just before I was about to quit my bartending jobs and embark on a 6-month road trip across the USA. I think it's safe to say I was in the very beginnings of a transformative period in my life and I think these songs reflect that.

California Dreaming

July 04, 2018

California Dreaming

Special

July 17, 2018

Special

Welcome 29

July 22, 2018

Today is my 29th birthday. This song captures the feeling.

Steadfast

July 26, 2018

Steadfast

Fundamentals of Design

August 09, 2018

I'm only 3 chapters in to a book called "The Design of Everyday Things" by Donald A. Norman and have already learned some interesting things about design. I'd recommend the book for anybody who wants to be a better designer, or even for anybody who just wants to understand humans and how we interact with the devices we design. I'll explain the two best takeaways from the book so far.

Norman describes 4 principles of design: visibility, a good conceptual model, good mappings, and feedback. Visibility means that by simply looking, the user can tell the state of the device and the alternatives for action. The second principle, a good conceptual model, is provided by the designer with consistency in the presentation of operations and results in a coherent, consistent system image. Good mappings means that it is possible to determine the relationships between actions and results, between the controls and their affects, and between the system state and what is visible. Lastly, feedback means that the user receives full and continuous feedback about the results of actions. Just having those principles in mind when you're designing your products and services will by itself improve your results.

Another helpful resource from Norman's book are a set of 7 design questions you can ask yourself. They are as follows. How easily one can: Determine the function of the device? Tell what actions are possible? Determine mapping from intention to physical movement? Perform the action? Tell if system is in desired state? Determine mapping from system state to interpretation? Tell what state the system is in? Ask yourself these questions when wondering if you have designed a good product and you will find ways to improve it.

Lastly, I'd like to share this passage from p.74 in the book, when Donald Norman predicted the smart phone. It's in a section of the book where he is talking about external memory and reminder systems, and how they play a role in usability. The passage is as follows:

"Would you like a pocket-size device that reminded you of each appointment and daily event? I would. I am waiting for the day when portable computers become small enough that I can keep one with me at all times. I will definitely put all my reminding burdens upon it. It has to be small. It has to be convenient to use. And it has to be relatively powerful... It has to have a full, standard typewriter keyboard and a reasonably large display. It needs good graphics, because that makes a tremendous difference in usability... What I ask for is not unreasonable. The technology I need is available today. It's just that the full package has never been put together... But it will exist in imperfect form in five years, possibly in perfect form in ten."

This book was published in 1988.

Deep Summer

August 17, 2018

Deep Summer

Flow State

August 19, 2018

Something that I seek to find and achieve in my everyday life is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as the flow state. The flow state is described as a state of effortless concentration and enjoyment. I find it in anything creative, which can be everything. Conversations, running, making music, writing, etc. All these activities allow me to become fully immersed in an experience. Csikszentmihalyi says that it is the "full involvement of flow, rather than happiness, that makes for excellence in life." Enjoying a serene relationship or sunrise is a moment of happiness that depends on your external reality being in your favor. By getting into flow state, you access a happiness that comes from your own making. The happiness comes from our internal reality rather than what we are experiencing externally at that moment. This type of happiness leads to increasing complexity and growth in consciousness, meaning you begin to comprehend more about your experience of life and in turn can experience a rich and deep reality.

Csikszentmihalyi offers advice on many ways to achieve flow state. It can occur when somebody is facing a clear set of goals that require appropriate responses. Playing tennis or poker will allow the participant to respond to situations without having to think about their responses. This offers up a space where you must quickly respond and you can learn to trust yourself. Flow also occurs when a person is faced with a challenge that is just about manageable. The challenge becomes the very thing that requires the participant to learn new skills. The research suggests that flow is generally achieved by people while they are doing their favorite activity. Very rarely do people report that they experience flow while doing something easy like watching television. As humans, I think we have a deep need and desire for growth. Flow seems to be most accessible in activities that make growth and learning possible.

A fascinating fact of Csikszentmihalyi's research is that flow is often experienced more by people at work than in their free time. Free time is filled with leisure. Leisure does not lead to flow state. Our nervous system is wired to attend to external signals and has not had time to adapt to long periods without obstacles or dangers. If somebody tends to use leisure time to relax and not challenge them self, they have less of a chance of finding meaning in their time off. Unless they learn how to use this leisure time effectively, then having this time at their disposal does not improve the quality of their life. Using your free time effectively requires you to be willing to overcome the initial obstacle of doing something challenging. The activities that create flow state are challenging by nature. But once you get past the initial hurdle of beginning a challenging activity, you're much more likely to enter flow state and therefore derive more pleasure from your free time than if you had stayed on the couch. Finding flow in social interactions is possible as well. It has been shown that people tend to swim around in depressive thoughts when they are alone with nothing to do. The moods experienced by a chronic depressive are indistinguishable from healthy people's moods as long as they are in company and doing something that requires attention and concentration.

In "Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life" by Csikszentmihalyi, you will learn much more about what the flow state is, how it can improve the quality of your life, and how to achieve the state itself. I view flow as a powerful energy that I have to work to uncover and access. I have to be confronted with a challenging situation that requires me to think creatively on the spot. When I begin to work towards confronting a challenge, I begin to feel a certain excitement and joy. Thoughts become more clear and I become more intuitive. My trust in myself increases and I feel stronger and faster. Lastly, in overcoming the challenge, I then get to experience a lasting and fulfilling happiness.

Static

August 26, 2018

Static

Peaceful

September 01, 2018

Peaceful

Love Loop

September 02, 2018

Love Loop

Love Is God Is Love

September 08, 2018

Love Is God Is Love

Chill Off

September 15, 2018

Chill Off