Accomplishments

I Made Another Video of Decent Quality

Yesterday, I made another quality video. It involved the Zelda Chest Opening Theme, dry ice, and a cooler.

This semester I tasked myself with uploading at least 5 quality videos amidst the never-ending onslaught of daily videos, which mainly consist of only <30 second folk songs. I’ve only uploaded a few that I thought of high enough quality to check off my to-do list, one of which was the GameCube Startup Theme.

From that video I learned a few things. I learned I could edit my videos just slightly more than usual and come up with profoundly greater looking videos. The GameCube Startup Theme only consisted of me playing one riff and then overlaying the GameCube startup video. It was short and sweet and it looked alright, so I decided to upload it to Reddit to see if I could get any exposure for the channel. Most of the time I submit to subs that can be associated with the videos:

  1. Zelda theme week on /r/Zelda
  2. Super Mario Bros on /r/Mario
  3. Sound of Silence on /r/ArrestedDevelopment

I couldn’t submit to /r/gaming though because at the time I didn’t comment enough to pass the threshold created by the sub to post. So I was left with /r/YouTubeHaiku, which specializes in short YouTube videos.

And it was a jackpot, in terms of my channel at least.

Most of my videos on my channel average at around 5 to 6 views after a few days after uploads, unless I advertise it on the Twitter or post it to an appropriate subreddit, which then can vary the results from 40 – 100ish views.

The GameCube Startup Theme garnered 1000 views in a single day, brought my view count to 4000, making that video account for about 25% of all the views on my channel… which had well over a hundred videos.

So there it was, the flash in the pan. The lightning in a bottle. The fluke. I couldn’t think of anything else to upload that would be of such short length and such high quality. Until a week ago when I came up with the idea of using the Zelda Chest Opening Theme.

It was an iconic sounding riff, it had an iconic animation associated with it, and I could put a little gag at the end, all of which are needed for a successful video. I now even knew of a place that would be highly accepting of my video.

To give credit where credit is due I got the sheet music from NinSheetMusic.org they are super awesome and as the name implies, have sheet music for Nintendo games.

The next step was recreating the iconic animation, which in my mind consists of Link reaching into a semi-mysterious glowing chest and then pulling out the item that he found. Then I needed the parts:

  1. Link – Myself
  2. Semi-mysterious – A fog effect created by dry ice
  3. Glowing – A phone flashlight
  4. Chest – The cooler I bought along with the dry ice
  5. Item – A piece of paper that says ‘consider subscribing’

This was the result.

The rig inside the cooler was pretty funny itself. It consisted of a block of dry ice leaned towards the door, on the side of cooler closest to the camera. I would pour hot water on it to create the fog effect which then created the issue of the dry ice now becoming ever so slightly wet.

This meant that the paper could not be put directly on the dry ice or it would get wet. My solution was to place a block on top of the dry ice to create a flat surface after I poured the water on it. This created a dry surface that a paper could be placed on then easily found in fog.

Then I needed light. I had a flashlight but it wasn’t strong enough so I needed to use my phone’s light. This turned out to be risky because I couldn’t just put my phone on the bottom of the cooler due to the hot water. My solution was to place my phone on a small coffee cup, which I then placed into the cooler after pouring in the water.

With all those elements put together I was able to create the video, which upon looking at the stats, is getting pretty successful. I’ve almost doubled my subscribers so far thanks to the gag at the end and it has also garnered at least a thousand views.

I can’t make any promises, but I’m hoping to try to release a semi-quality video every week or so (something that is of considerable length i.e. >minute) and a quality video (something of good editing) every month or so. I’m also hoping to have a Metroid Theme Week, much like the Zelda theme week of a semester ago.

I’m excited to see where the future takes Xylo-A-Day!

If you want to edit the video, here it is so you don’t have to rip it from YouTube:

Print-Making the Grade

When I first went to college, I wasn’t exactly the visual artistic type. Aside from the doodles that everyone draws in the margins of their notebooks, I didn’t draw much. I didn’t paint. I didn’t create visual art like that. In high school I was artistic, I was in band and played music, I just wasn’t visually artistic.

In college I had to take a fine arts credit, since I decided not to be a part of the band. I had to actually take a fine arts class, all of which are deduced down to music appreciation, jazz appreciation, and art appreciation. Going against all of my musical learning that began in the 6th grade, I decided to do art appreciation.

The format of the class was awesome. It consisted of being in a giant lecture hall of about 100-200 students and having a PowerPoint full of art that we would just discuss. Sure there were a couple of quizzes and stuff, but all in all it was just sitting and discussing a ton of different pieces of art.

And then I learned about printmaking.

Printmaking, in a generic sense, is the process of making a block (or some template medium) that you run through an inking process and then transfer to paper. Unlike other mediums you can just keep reproducing the image as well (at least until the block is worn). The trickiest part of most forms of printing is that you have to do everything mirrored, so when you place your block onto the paper it prints the correct direction. I have a couple of pictures with the blocks in them down below to help you understand what I mean.

So upon learning of this awesome form of art I went out and bought a beginner lino-cut printing set. This consisted of a couple blocks of linoleum, some ink, and a couple of chisels that are used to cut out the linoleum.

The result of my first actually decent print was a printing of the gnome child meme. Meme right here for comparison.
Image result for gnome child

I since come to the realization that I inked the block pretty badly on that one. After that I produced a couple of other things, and the only other one that I really liked was a pointy-hat confused bearded guy (I should just make that the title of the picture).

Then, for a good laugh (which is the reason I create most things) I made a print of a printer. Neat.

 

The next significant thing I made was a garlic bread print, where there was a hot piece of garlic bread and kanji (hopefully saying garlic bread, I got it from google translate so it’s questionable). It had been so long since I produced the last print that I struggled to get the inking right, and after printing off a ton of them, I was able to get a cool looking gradient. So without further ado.

And just recently, inspired by a dumb internet meme (another main source of inspiration), I made a print of Steve Harvey that summarizes most episodes of Family Feud.

And that is all I have. If I create any new prints that I think are funny, or a significant improvement in quality, then I’ll probably post them here.

Until I post again, have a great week!

Throwing a Pigskin

How much you wanna make a bet I can throw a football over them mountains?… Yeah… Coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we would’ve been state champions. No doubt. No doubt in my mind.

-Uncle Rico, Napoleon Dynamite

I was never really good at football. By that I mean my mom was a little protective and I never got to play. I really don’t mind, football is a dangerous sport anyways.

This blog post isn’t about football though, this blog post is about regret and denial.

I know, I know. Maxwell you said this wasn’t going to be a lifestyle blog. Maxwell I thought you were going to do more music reviews. Maxwell, why don’t you talk about games or math or something.

I am going to live in denial a little bit and say that this post is really a character analysis more than it is a lifestyle commentary, although you can expect it to devolve into some form of rant. The character I am partially analyzing is Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.

Image result for uncle rico

If you haven’t seen Napoleon Dynamite shame on you I understand. It is a strange movie where it doesn’t really feel like there is a solid plot and every character is a caricature of an actual human.

Uncle Rico is the uncle to the main character Napoleon. That’s about it. He really doesn’t have much going for him. He is the caricature of regret and denial.

Although a grown man, Uncle Rico constantly references high school and how his coach didn’t put him in during state football championships. Most of his screen time is taken up by watching him record himself throwing footballs, aimlessly.

One of the scenes depicts him trying to use a (fake) time machine, so he can go back in time and correct the mistakes of the past.

His character is the epitome of denial, spending all of his present time wallowing, believing he should have earned something that is now long gone and out of reach.

Do not be like Uncle Rico.

If you don’t play football, you are halfway there.

I’m just kidding though, everyone probably has dealt with denial or regret. Everyone’s life is littered with mistakes, good days, bad days, alright days and so on and so forth. It is easy to get bogged down by a bad day and then caught up in a fond memory and think that you were so much better off then. The fact is you are selecting data and creating bad math.

And here is where I start talking about math.

First off, as humans we have an innate ability to see patterns and analyze things. I don’t mean we do it well, honestly we are pretty terrible at it. Optical illusions play on our brain’s desire to see patterns, and people still assume that 939578991 is more random than 123456789.

Now here is what you need to know about life and then about statistics.

No matter how hard you try you are going to have a bad day, if your life is amazing and awesome in every way you are still going to have bad moments, and still going to have regrets about your life.

On the flipside though, no matter how terrible and depressing your life is you are still going to at least have a couple of good moments.

The fact is that no matter how much you don’t like statistics, your life is a scatterplot. The ultimate goal in life is to be an upward trending scatterplot, kind of like the one below.

scatter plot showing strong positive linear correlation

The Y-axis would be your overall self-satisfaction.
The X-axis is time (how classic).
The line not only is the average but what you believe the satisfaction you should be getting out of your day is.

People that get too stuck in the past have a graph that looks like this.

Notice that it putters out.

If you get too attached to a memory and find yourself saying that those were the glory days, that you no longer can be as good as you were, that you PEAKED, then this is probably what your life is like. You never actually get back to that level of self-satisfaction because you are now comparing your entire life to a single event.

The best way to remedy this is by first coming to the realization that you did not in fact peak. If you are life-ing properly you should peak when you die.

You are going to have good memories and they will define you.
You are going to have bad memories and they will define you.
The important part is that they aren’t unreachable.

If you live your life saying that you can never reach the pit that is your worst memory, then the rug could slip out from under and you could make the same mistake.

If you live your life saying that you can never reach the heaven that is your best memory, then I guarantee right now that you never will.

Your good memories should be motivation for how great your life can be. You should stop at nothing to the consistently reach the level of satisfaction of those memories. You can never relive those memories but you can make new memories that are just as great if not better.

Your bad memories should be there to motivate you to do better. Realistically, no matter how motivated or talented or happy or complete you are there will always be a bad day every now and then. The point of your bad memories is to minimize these bad days and the problems that they cause. You can’t fix them because they have passed, but you can learn from them.

All in all, the past is the past and we can’t ever reach it again, so use it as a lesson and then move on. The only part your present self can effect is your future self, and the only part your future self can thank is your past self.

Maximum Endeavors Reached

When I made this blog it was during a time where my school life was winding down and summer was beginning. So during Summer I was capable of releasing pretty decent content weekly and then stream video games. With all of that time I was also able to expand the endeavors I could do. Here is the semi-sweet news:

I don’t have enough time to expand, for now.

When the school year started I took all of my weekly goals down a heavy notch. And then I failed to accomplish all of them. So I tried harder, and I still failed.

Without a doubt though I have gotten more efficient. I am planning out my weeks exceedingly well, I am getting closer at accomplishing my weekly goals, and I am getting my studies finished faster. Beyond that my life is getting way more active, I am participating in events all over campus and hanging out with a lot more people.

So the problem isn’t that I am shirking my weekly goals to play videogames (trust me, I would be playing Metroid: Samus Returns right now if that were the case). The problem is that my life has gotten much busier, which is why I haven’t been able to stream or become more active in my endeavors.

The good news is that more content will be coming in the weeks to come. Here is my reasoning:

  1. Next week is Xylo-A-Day’s Zelda theme week. If you don’t know, that means that every day starting Sunday I am going to posting a Zelda themed video every day for an entire week. It will be awesome so you should check it out.
  2. These next two weeks are just particularly stressful on my life, I have a major test coming up and some career opportunities I need to go for, so a lot of my focus is on that. Also theme week recording.
  3. I am only going to be more efficient at time management. Two weeks of experience in getting things done will only prove to help me get things done faster.
  4. Hopefully after this is all over then I will probably be able to start a new endeavor, which will be really refreshing to start something new.
  5. Oh did I say that theme week is next week.

All in all I don’t really know what else to say, when I made this blog I just said that it would be documentation for my life and at the very least I intend to keep that promise.

My life is only getting better and so hopefully the content of the blog will be able to reflect that progression.

A Perl of a Script

“if something — anything — requires more than 90 seconds of his time, he writes a script to automate that.”
-guy from online article

Today was the first time I wrote a script that increased my productivity. Although mundane, I wrote a script to auto-name my notes in class to the current day’s date.

Ever since I got into college I have heard stories of people automating. This was the article that put automation in my scopes. I never want to become so automated that robot me sends my future wife texts, but I was fascinated knowing that there is enough potential in scripting to do such an absurd thing.

I have never really been able to script because I never fully knew a language that was built for scripting. I knew Java, C, C++ but these are known as compiled languages. You have to run the code through another program to get an executable to run for later.

I needed to learn a language like Python or Perl, which is built for more interaction and doesn’t have to be compiled. This yields the great benefit of being able to modify the code and immediately run it. I can easily modify my notes script to format the files a different way and then start running it again like nothing happened.

And this summer, lo and behold, I decided to learn Perl. It is a really fun language to learn, especially coming from C, since Perl’s word and input manipulation is basically indestructible. The script I wrote is in Perl and it took me about an hour to write because I learned Perl at the beginning of summer and then haven’t touched it much since. Now I could probably write a script like that in significantly less time.

This school year I am going to be efficient, I am going to be organized, I am going to be fit, and most importantly, I am going to very best me I can possibly be.

To any students reading this blog, good luck this school year, you’ve got this!

The Upward Spiral

Major Disclaimer: This is not an attempt to become a lifestyle blog.

Like most people, you have probably heard of the downward spiral. It probably goes something like, something bad happens, and then in reaction to that something bad happening a bad decision is made, then something bad happens, and then a bad decision is made, and it just keeps going.

The downward spiral is pretty easy to get into because stress and vice are a perfect combo.

A large assignment that is due weeks from now seems like a daunting task to start, I decide to play video games instead to relieve the stress.
A large assignment that is due days from now seems like an even more daunting task to start, I decide to play video games or sleep instead to relieve the stress.
A large assignment is now due, and I stitched together some garbage to produce a product.
I get a bad grade on the assignment and then become less motivated in class and don’t know the material as well as I should for the next assignment.
A large assignment that is due weeks from now seems like a dau…

This is the main problem with math, unlike plenty of other subjects math stacks on itself. It requires that you understand addition to really understand multiplication. It requires that you understand multiplication to understand raising numbers to powers.

The downward spiral creates problems because it is present you shirking responsibility for future you to do. Then future you becomes present you and present you is salty because past you didn’t do anything.

The upward spiral is the opposite of all of this.

The upward spiral is when present you sacrifices time for future you to be more successful. It is tough and mostly counter-intuitive but is usually worth it.

Examples include:
Going to the gym
Not procrastinating
Making plans
Making a budget
Sleeping enough/not sleeping too much

People like to be instantly gratified which is why it is hard to get on and stay on the upward spiral. It takes days before the effects of the upward spiral are felt.

The best part about the upward spiral though is that it creates the opposite feeling of the downward spiral. Present you will be in a constant stream of gratitude for past you and will be more motivated to help out future you. Then future you will become present you and it will all start over again.

The past two weeks I haven’t posted because I was out of town and then I was sick, but beyond all of that when I got back I became unmotivated. I thought about it more and my desk was dirty and I wasn’t releasing xylophone videos. Everything was piling up and I wasn’t willing to start polishing off my to-do list. I’m still in the chilling mood but I feel like blogging is getting me one step closer to riding that upward spiral.

Sorry for the ramble, I hope this will never become a lifestyle blog.

I Conquered Far Cry 2

This isn’t an achievement to be proud of.

Far Cry 2 is a first-person action shooter created by Ubisoft in 2008. It is set in Africa and features militias, rust, malaria, and long driving sequences. Most people say this game isn’t that good, I’ll put my input on that later. But as far as the facts go there has been two major installments of Far Cry since this game and both of them received better ratings for their well-polished mechanics.

The supporters claim that the game is like Dark Souls and requires a large amount of skill. Their reasoning is that the game’s mechanics don’t reward the player, I agree. There really isn’t a single mechanic in the game that rewards the player, it’s more like you play as Sisyphus and your upgrades just make the boulder a pound lighter, it just technically helps. That said I don’t agree with the supporters, these mechanics aren’t tough, they are tedious.

The game feels needy, it is fully aware there is no actual content. I’ll describe each mechanic 2 ways, from the supporter and detractor side, and then explain my playthrough.

There is malaria:
Supporter – It adds immersion, the player can’t actually forget that they are sick, even in the middle of a firefight.
Detractor – It adds annoyance, the mechanic is just hitting a button every 30 minutes to take a pill.

There is no fast travel:
Supporter – It adds immersion, the player has to truck their way through the Saharan Africa and fight everything on the way.
Detractor – *PERSONAL INTERJECTION WARNING* The cars drive slowly and are made of paper. The map is massive and is filled with the same hostile enemies that keep respawning.

Weapons rust:
Supporter – It adds immersion, you have to keep making sure your weapon is alright.
Detractor – Make sure that after every mission you just grab a new gun, not hard just adds more drive time. More drive time is less fun time, more annoyance.

There is stealth:
Supporter – It adds immersion. You get to choose the time of day to attack. You get to scout out the camp. You get sneak around and stealth kill.
Detractor – Nope. The moment any of the enemies detect you, it is over. If they hear rustling in the bush they all start shooting. Enemies can see you through any sort of foliage, readily equipped with laser vision.

I don’t remember how long it took me to beat the game, but it was definitely too long. 75% of my playthrough was me in transit. Not experiencing action filled camp raids. Not driving fast or feeling cool about my turning capabilities. Only driving in semi-straight lines. Sometimes my car would break down too and I would walk.

Beyond this the gameplay that every considered as super hard was not even a challenge once you understand how dumb and weak the enemies are. Sure I won’t deny that if you walked into camps with a machine gun or assault rifle and tried to mow down the enemies then the game would probably be pretty challenging. This wasn’t the experience I had with the game.

I walked into every camp with a pistol, a sniper rifle, and a shotgun. The first guns that are available. I was unstoppable, the guns were all one hit kills at their respective ranges (The pistol covering all the ranges under the sniper rifle). I never experienced the good stealth mechanics of the game, just walk in, head shot everything, and walk out. It didn’t matter the time of day, it didn’t matter whether it was raining (supposedly those are both game changers).

The game was just a driving simulator where my pit stops were just ever so slightly more interesting than the driving gameplay. There was no hardcore element, there was no interesting gameplay, just driving.

Typing Confidently

“You have undertaken to cheat me. I won’t sue, for the law is too slow. I’ll ruin you.”
-Business letter
-Typeracer Quote

This isn’t supposed to be a braggadocios post but my typing speed is a solid 70 WPM. Really in the grand scheme of things that isn’t that impressively fast. Yet, in comparison to my typing speed and accuracy 1 year ago, this is insanely fast.

To give some backstory, I am a computer science major so I have the need to type and interact with computers constantly. My typing speed was a whopping 40, without punctuation. Believe me, 70 isn’t super fast, but 40 is definitely slow.

In high school I knew this very well because my brother was a pianist and also a nerd, so he had a good typing speed. I tried once to increase my typing speed but I was in a programming class and reworking my whole technique was going to hinder my bad typing technique even further. I wasn’t willing to take the short term loss for long term gains.

This went on, and I knew my typing was crap, but I had no desire to change that anytime soon. And then… one day I walked into class and saw a teacher type and said, “You know what? Today is the day that I start learning to type better!”

So from there I went to typing.com (Not a sponsor). I went through most all of their lessons, and learned how to use proper technique, which is definitely the backbone to fast typing. This took a while to get through the lessons and feel confident. The rest was just practice.

The place where I practice my typing is typeracer.com (Still not a sponsor). Maybe there is a way to increase your typing speed super fast… I don’t know it. All typeracer does is give you quotes to type, so for me the process is simple:

  1. Go to Typeracer
  2. Type a bunch of quotes
  3. Repeat

The trick to typeracing is to not worry about racing, just worry about typing the passage as fast as possible. I still lose plenty of races, I don’t let this bother me though, because at the end of the day all I am trying to do is improve myself.

If you want to know how many passages I have typed on typeracer, as of this post it somewhere around 290o. The quote listed above is definitely my favorite.

Harry and the Quest for Everlasting Awesomeness

“…And Harry doesn’t mind if he doesn’t make the scene
He’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright…”
Sultans of Swing’, Dire Straits

To give some backstory, Sultans of Swing is a song by Dire Straits. As far as my literary analysis goes, the song is about a small band and all of its members. It doesn’t paint the small band as anything particularly amazing or anything particularly sad, it is just a small band of people who get together and play music.

The lyric above was and probably is still one of my favorite music quotes around. It perfectly illustrates a man who hones a skill as a hobby; he plays an instrument and has no desire to make it big. Harry has a daytime job, maybe a family, maybe a dog, cat, who knows? What we do know though is that Harry is pretty alright at guitar and he has no intention of devoting his life to it.

It’s refreshing in literature and art to create a person who is so uninspiring. If it were a novel or play, Harry playing guitar would never show up, in fact super boring Harry would probably be at best a side character who is notable for being mundane. His guitar playing would never change his life, or the story, and so they would never put it up on stage. Playwrights don’t put things on stage without it actually having an effect on the story, as illustrated by Chekhov’s gun.

Yet in this song, in this band, there is a completely normal guy who understands his limits and understands that he has a stable job that he shouldn’t risk on some mediocre guitar playing.

Now here is my side of the story, this quote used to define me, in fact I would go as far to say it used to inspire me. The idea that I only need to worry about my daytime job and then I can be as mediocre at whatever else I want to be sounds very tempting.

I used to be like that, I used to be daunted by tasks and just strive for mediocrity. This quote drove me to shut down on trying things just because I was sure that I would fail and then where would I be?

I wouldn’t be the best. Who cares about the guy who gets the silver medal?

The fact is most people aren’t going to be astronauts, most people aren’t going to be billionaires, most people aren’t going to master an instrument or a sport. Do not let this discourage you.

Harry probably isn’t the best guitar player there is, and he came to that conclusion, and that’s fine. I bet you though he practices a couple of times a week and he tries to get better.

Life isn’t about being THE BEST it is about being the BEST YOU CAN BE.

I have seen people who have tons of raw talent and don’t apply themselves get greatly surpassed by those who have nothing and put their heart into it. Most people would be surprised to see the best they can be is much better than what they thought they could be.

Have goals, and shoot for the gold, there is no reason to settle for mediocrity. Also know your limits, there is no reason to beat yourself up for being second best, because that is still better than ~7 billion people (as of now).

There is no reason to worry about being the best there is, only the best you can possibly be. Harry realized that. He realized he probably can’t make it big, but it’s fine because he’s got a daytime job, he’s doing alright.

Racquetball and the Top 4 (NOW WITH PICTURE!!!!)

When I arrived at college I found out that we had racquetball courts that were free to use. I’ve never played racquetball in my life, the closest I ever got to it was tennis, but I had a deep desire to learn to play. It seemed like a fun game, basically wall-ball but way more intense, so my friend and I started playing. It is in fact a fun game, and I have a few fun stories that I can share today.

The first story starts when my friend and I started playing and ends about 6 months later. We barely did any research into racquetball when we started playing so it is safe to say we played by some wrong rules.

First, let me explain the rules.

You have a court that looks like this.

The basics is this:

  • Hit the ball from inside the solid box, making sure to hit the front wall and landing it back across the solid box.
  • You cannot hit three walls during your serve.
  • Once your opponent returns the ball, the only objective is to keep returning the ball by hitting the front wall before the ball hits the ground twice. (or once you hit the ball it has to hit the wall before the ground)

Essentially the only rule where you can’t hit three walls applies only to serves. Sadly for my friend and I, we applied it to everything. We turned a game that revolves around speed and power into a nightmare of refereeing. I would love to lie and say that we only did it a few times, but we did it for a solid few months until we played doubles against 2 people who knew what they were doing.

That was embarrassing, but luckily I have something triumphant to balance that out.

My school hosts an intramural competition, which is just a school wide competition, in every sport. This includes racquetball which amassed a solid 19 people. We all get tossed into a bracket and start fighting our way up. According to that bracket I am now the 4th best person in racquetball in my entire school (or at least the people who signed up for intramurals).

This is where the plot thickens, I got to 4th place without ever playing a single game!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please, don’t let my undeniable glory blind you.

The very first game I was supposed to play, my opponent didn’t show up, even after we scheduled a match, which was quite rude. This moved me up 1 spot on the bracket, placing me in the quarterfinals. Then the two people who were fighting it out to be my opponent in quarterfinals didn’t even schedule with each other, so they both were disqualified. This meant that without playing a single game I moved on to the semifinals and gained the rank of 4th best in the school.

Sadly I lost that game and 4th is where I will stay this semester.

That is all the stories I have for right now, but as I keep playing racquetball I might amass, and you can be guaranteed that I will share.