New Website!

I have secured a domain and webhost at least for the next 2 months. I’ve decided that because I’ve spent so much time the last year working on other peoples’ websites, that I would likely enjoy working on my own site for a change. The site still has a ton of work left to make it more presentable but check it out if you’re interested:

Upcoming LudumDare 30

The upcoming LudumDare #30 at the end of August has been on my mind for a couple of weeks now. I think I’m going to try to do something for it. It occurs just a few days before my classes start up again so I have no excuses to not participate! After my last attempt in a speed development event, I learned quite a few things which I don’t intend to ignore this time around. Namely, I’m going to be using Java and a game development library (Slick) that I have a lot more experience with. Hopefully the theme will be something inspiring!

Nootropics – Bacopa Monnieri

I suppose I should preface this review of Bacopa with reason as to why this is showing up on my blog out of nowhere. Over the last year I’ve taken a strong interest in the emerging study of nootropic substances and have been experimenting carefully with a variety of different supplements and compounds. Initially I was spurred by an interest in self-treating my mild case of social anxiety and depression and that lead to me researching quite extensively for a chemical key to the door that I had locked between the world and my experience of it.

After getting these issues more or less resolved, however, my interest in chemical human enhancement remained in their absence. Nootropics are drugs or supplements that enhance various aspects of human performance with no or very mild side effects. Despite their obvious benefits, the scientists studying them are often unsure as to why they provide these enhancements. This has led to many communities of people across the internet to assemble to begin rote experiment on themselves in lieu of more controlled environments. Unfortunately, research money is not given often to studying nootropics as their is much more financial incentive in creating new anti-depressants or drugs that can actually save lives rather than just merely improve upon them.

My level of adventure isn’t quite at that level (perhaps, wisely.) Even so, I have experimented with a great deal of substances although I restrict myself to those that have had at least a few clinical trials. About a month ago I began experimenting with an ancient Ayurvedic herb, Bacopa Monnieri. Touted as improving memory by the companies that market it, I was initially skeptical (as I always am) but upon doing further research I found that the claims did have some, albeit minor, merit. After a month of taking Bacopa, however, my doubts have been obliterated. I have found that not only has my memory improved slightly, but my depth of thought and focus have increased quite unexpectedly! I have been taking a dosage of around 500mg daily with my morning coffee and after a week I started to notice improvements to my cognitive profile.

In the last month I have probably learned more about computer science than in the last two semesters of college. Granted, my interest has been higher but also I am just finding learning much more fun in general! It’s almost as if Bacopa improves the ability to retain memories and focus through a sort of reward increasing mechanism. Multiple nights I have spent hurdled over my computer devouring knowledge and yet my energy levels don’t wane! I still need to sleep 8 hours a night, but it’s as if the energy levels that regulate the amount of effort that I can exert in an intellectual pursuit have increased by a large factor.

I intend to keep taking this herb and I recommend anyone else who is in college check Bacopa out for themselves. It’s definitely changed what I thought I was mentally capable of and has even removed such an idea from my mind for the time being. I’ll certainly update my blog in a month or two with an update on the nootropic situation. Take care!

Meditation Revelation

We all suffer, only some of us suffer for a purpose and others suffer for lack or denial of one. In life, we should always seek to find the pain that is most pleasing to us. We can never fully escape pain, but there is pain we can endure and pain we cannot. This thought has been brewing in me for the past few weeks and I can’t find any foothold at which to counter it or object to it. Perhaps this is just a personal truth in my life, but I am trying much harder now to allow myself the pleasure of suffering.

Pianoteq 4.5 Review

I’ve been craving a new piano VST for quite some time as my current go-to piano VST, Steinberg’s The Grand 2, just wasn’t cutting it anymore in terms of expressiveness. After finally deciding to put in the research time I set about searching the forums and reviews of the internet in pursuit of a VST that would sound great and be affordable. There are actually quite a lot of piano VSTs out on the market which made it quite hard to decide upon just one of them. However, I eventually downloaded the demo of Pianoteq 4.5 and I was instantly blown away by the sound. Upon hitting the first chord I was overcome by how rich sounding and dynamic it sounded. To be honest, I had expected it to sound very artificial due to it being a physically modeled instrument, but it was unlike any sampled piano I’ve heard in a great way.

Amazingly, this VST weighs in at a staggeringly low 29.3 MB, because it doesn’t rely on samples of any kind unlike traditional piano VSTs. Also, most sampled pianos only offer 16 sampled velocity levels whereas Pianoteq has 127 (although if MIDI were capable of more, I’m sure they could expand that as the simulation is programmed from the ground up.) The price for the PRO version is quite steep so I settled on the STAGE version (the budget offering.) Modartt offer a demo for both the STAGE and Standard versions of the software and although the bonus features in the Standard version were enticing I couldn’t warrant the additional cost with my current budget. Luckily, they do offer upgrade options if you want to upgrade to a better version down the road.  Needless to say, I ended up buying a license. I’ve probably spent a good 6 hours today just lost in music, and it’s been amazing! Definitely recommended to those that are first and foremost pianists but don’t have the greatest sounding virtual piano equivalent yet!

There are some drawbacks to this VST (as with anything.) First of all, the license is only valid for 1 year of upgrades on the software. I can understand why they would do this (as the software has become much better sounding over the years that it’s been in development) but at the same time I think it would be perhaps better if they only charged for additional addons. Secondly, the price is quite a bit higher than Native Instruments New York Concert Grand and other piano offerings. Depending on the type of music you are interested in writing/playing one of those sampled offerings may be a better option. However, they don’t offer any kind of demo to try which is why I personally ruled that option out as I won’t buy any VSTs unless I can play with them hands on first (otherwise, I have no idea if I will enjoy using them and feel inspired by them.)

Here’s a sample of me playing Pianoteq 4.5 using the D4 Grand and R2 Electric Piano models:

And what the heck, I’ll give this software a rating: 9.2/10