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Mindless Pursuits


Archive for the ‘Daily Life and Thoughts’


The ‘Unknown War’ in Education and Why We Need to Stop Fighting It 1

Posted on August 16, 2015 by Keith

There’s a war in the realm of education, and it’s a war we see waged constantly in commentary on blogs, news articles, and almost anyplace where education becomes a topic. I’m not talking about those who fight about public vs charter vs private vs home schooling. I’m not talking about specific curriculum approaches, be they Common Core, AP History, or anything in a similar vein. I’m not even talking tuition costs and student loans, though the cost of access to education does have an impact in this war. No – I’m referring to the ‘unknown war’ between those who have pursued a college degree and those who are self-taught. It’s a ‘war’ that does not good and only serves to create division and to belittle those that fall on either side.

There are a couple of logical fallacies at play on both sides. Let’s start with the college degree. I see a great number of individuals with degrees argue that, as a result of that degree, they have greater knowledge and / or more discipline in their fields (and sometimes outside of their fields) than those who do not have degrees. They feel superior to those that don’t have degrees or who didn’t pursue college (for whatever reason) and seem to equate spending money on college credits to be a sign that they worked harder.

Conversely, I have been witness to more than one discussion where a ‘self taught’ individual feels superior to someone who obtained a college degree because they were able to ‘do it on their own’ and not ‘waste’ the time or money. Often, I see these individuals belittling college graduates for spending the money, especially if those college grads are either not working in the fields of their degrees or are having to work a job that society calls ‘unskilled.’ (That’s another completely different discussion, and I’m going to try to avoid politics!)

Let me clue both sides in to the most important factor at play whether you possess a degree or are ‘self-taught’: your willingness to work hard, apply yourself, and to try to do something with the knowledge you gain. Paying for college is no guarantee of hard work. Even getting that degree doesn’t mean you worked hard. All the degree demonstrates is that you were both willing to pay, and to put in at least the minimum effort required to graduate — and that could be as little as showing up occasionally and barely passing tests or papers. On the other side of the coin, being ‘self taught’ doesn’t mean you’ve mastered your topic or field either. Maybe all you’ve done is read one paper and think you now know all you need to claim mastery. There’s no objective criteria at play.

Here’s the reality for both sides: given access to resources of similar scope, breadth and relative understanding, anyone willing to apply themselves can learn and master almost any topic given time. Education and learning come from two sources: your own experiences and what knowledge others have been willing to share. Here’s where the financial aspect DOES come into play: it is easier to access shared knowledge and build experiences when one has the finances to do so. That said, it isn’t necessarily impossible to do so without financial means. It just means more time and effort. I am a big fan of libraries and the Internet for opening up more information to everyone who seeks it. It’s become a good leveling influence, though it still suffers from growing pains and financial access limitations as well.

So here’s my thought: stop waging war over which way is better, or more valid, or more appropriate for your job setting. Start focusing on what makes education the important factor that it is. Those pursuing, or who have degrees: stop belittling those who are ‘self-taught’ for following that path – financial access isn’t available for everyone, and not everyone who could get loans wants to take on the burden of debt purely on the hope of meeting some arbitrary external expectation. While you may have worked hard, studied a lot, and come in at the top or near the top of your class, many who have degrees didn’t work so hard, so don’t look at the degree as the measure of your ability: look at what you actually did yourself to achieve it, and what you are doing now with it what you learned, even if it’s not in your career field.

Those who are ‘self-taught’: stop attempting to use being ‘self taught’ as some sort of superiority measure. Unless you have learned everything solely through experience with no assistance from others, you are not ‘self taught’. I say this as someone who falls under the category of ‘self taught,’ and it’s the reason I put it in quotes. I had the financial access and the opportunity to pursue a degree. I determined after a year that it didn’t suit my learning style, and I wasn’t getting as much from it as I did from self-study, but that was a personal choice. Even if I hadn’t had a choice due to access issues, financial or otherwise, I still wouldn’t be ‘self-taught’ because I took advantage of the knowledge others shared with me – be it through public education, books from the library, television shows, documentaries, and eventually, the Internet. I prefer the term ‘self-directed education’ to ‘self-taught’ for just that reason. My knowledge wasn’t formed in a vacuum where nothing existed but my experiences. I didn’t learn to read by finding books and puzzling them out entirely on my own. I didn’t learn to paint by first discovering how to create pigment and brushes and supports — I learned about them from others, and sought out as many different ways to keep learning and expanding my knowledge as I could. Those who took the college path directed that path for themselves. They still learned through a fundamentally similar process.

So again – let’s stop the ‘unknown war’ that only creates further division, and focus on what makes for similarities: that desire to learn, to expand our limits, and to make use of what we learn. That’s how we move forward and create a better society for all of us. That’s how we begin to tear down some of the walls that separate us from understanding one another. That’s how we take the next step in building a world that supports the needs of our children and their children. That’s why I am a teacher – to pass along what I learned to try to enable others to continue their educations and pursue their dreams. I’ll never judge anyone on their approach to learning, as long as they have one and actively pursue it. If you are reading this blog, or following my YouTube channel, I hope you can look at things the same way, but if not, I ask that you at least give it some thought before belittling another for their education path.

Thank you for reading.

Why I Have Delays And The Upcoming Tutorials Planned 0

Posted on August 11, 2015 by Keith

I’ve fielded some earnest and justified comments about the delays in my videos over the last week, and I want to take a moment to address them. Those who haven’t been familiar with Mindless Pursuits in the past (which are most of my subscribers on YouTube since they are all new) can be understandably frustrated at the delays in a schedule I had hoped would be more tight and consistent. There is a reason for it, and it’s very straightforward: I’m a survivor of multiple battles with cancer who also deals with other chronic health problems, and as a result, when I get ill, I tend to get very ill. Without going into all of the TMI around my medical stuff, I’ve been dealing with a bad ongoing cold / bronchial infection that led to inflammation of scar tissue in my throat that caused my voice to go away for a bit. To try and heal that, I was given anti-inflammatory medications, and if you have ever had those, you will know that they are often steroid-based, and steroids damage the immune system. Having had a battle with cancer as recently as this year, my immune system hasn’t rebuilt much, and so the steroid-based meds tore down what little immunity I had rebuilt, opening the door to another cold. Thus, delays that I couldn’t anticipate but that are necessary as I need to get my health back. With all of that said, I will be continuing to create tutorials, and so let’s review what I have planned.

First, the Top Down Shooter series will continue with completing the Instant Hit and Projectile Weapon implementations before continuing into building a HUD and aiming mechanism. The Zombie Shooter / Generic Shooter Sample Project vids will be continuing with a series of shorts and one-off videos, the first of which will center on jumping and sprinting with stamina. There will be a series of ‘How Do I?’ one-off videos that apply to 3D games in general such as ‘How Do I create A Gibbing Effect?’ or ‘How Do I implement Rocket Jump?’ Most of these videos will be based off of subscriber requests. Finally, I’ve been scripting a series on game development practices and how they align with standard software practices so that you can ensure the best quality in your game endeavors.

One other series that will be forthcoming over the next month or two will simply follow my own development methodology. When I make tutorials, I tend to do it off the top of my head, which is admittedly NOT how I do things when I’m doing them just for myself. That’s why, in some of my tutorials, you’ll see me jump around a bit as I remember things, or try something different. I use the tutorials to demonstrate how a developer might work through things as they learn, as I find that often makes it easier for others to learn as well – they don’t feel so alone in trying things and refining their efforts. There is value in an authoritative approach to videos where everything is done smoothly and perfectly on the first try, but when I am learning things, I find that less valuable as it doesn’t make me thing through the ‘why.’ However, I think it will be a good series to show how I approach things for myself, where I document program flows, write pseudo code, use programs like Articy Draft and more to nail down what I want and need to do before I touch code or blueprints in the editor. I guess we’ll see if others find that valuable as well!

Finally, even while ill, I’ve been able to make some progress on the interactive training site. The interactive training site will allow a learner to approach a topic in a manner that ebbs and flows with their learning speed and technique. So for instance, a learner who does better by being quizzed about their knowledge as they go along, in order to reinforce that knowledge, the system will handle that… whereas the learner who like to be presented with concepts and then just work on their own until they master them will be accommodated as well. It’s a lot of work to set up, but I think it adds a lot of value for those wanting to learn new skills. Assuming I can get my health back on track this week, I hope to have the first interactive lesson available by the end of the month so I can begin getting feedback from my ‘students.’

So that’s what is happening! Hopefully I’ll be back into good physical health soon so things move more quickly, but they will definitely keep flowing over time regardless. Take care, and I’ll see you in the next tutorial!

Understanding the Trello YouTube Tutorial Board 0

Posted on August 01, 2015 by Keith
The Trello Board for Tutorials on YouTube

The Trello Board for Tutorials on YouTube

If you’ve been out to the Trello board where I maintain the lists related to the tutorials on YouTube, you may find yourself wondering what everything means. There are a lot of cards there, spread out over many lists, and with many different markings. It can get a bit confusing! Let me break it all down with you, starting with the list names. As most people read right to left, and want to see what’s new and what’s about to be posted, I actually have the lists ordered from last step to first step. For our discussion, let’s walk through the list names from left to right, though.

  • Requested. This list holds all of those tutorial requests I’ve received that I’m still considering and haven’t yet committed myself to, even if the commitment is only in my head!
  • Planned Series. These are not individual episodes, but series that I have committed to making, but I haven’t planned them out on an episode basis yet.
  • Planned Episodes. These are individual episodes that I have a plan for, and a documented focus. They still need to be plotted (and in some cases, scripted), but they will definitely be made in the future.
  • In-Progress – Episodes Plotted / Scripted. These are episodes I have started production on, and have completed creating outlines for. Most episodes I can create ‘off the cuff’ and I prefer that, but in some cases, I need to plan things out a lot more. For instance, once I discovered how much work will need to be done for implementing True First Person with the Generic Shooter, I needed to work on a detailed outline to ensure I wouldn’t forget to explain anything.
  • In Progress – Episodes Recorded. These episodes have been recorded but are awaiting editing. They may consist of multiple separate video files and images, and are not ready to be viewed.
  • In Progress – Episodes Being Edited. The next step in the process is to put all of the different elements of a tutorial together, and remove gaps, cut bloopers, limit ‘uhhhs’ and so on. The reason why this heading is not in the past tense is because sometimes, I will need to re-record or record new supplemental material, and don’t know it until I am in editing.
  • Completed. The tutorial is fully edited, and is ready to be encoded and scheduled for upload to YouTube.
  • Posted. The final step – a video has been uploaded to YouTube. As this point, the video may not be set as ‘Public’ and be viewable. The reason for this is that I am starting to upload videos in advance so that I can reduce delays when other areas of production go awry.

With all of that noted, here are some details on what the various stickers mean!

Trello

This clock sticker means that I have the episode scheduled but haven’t uploaded it yet. I plan my schedules based upon a number of different influences, so some completed tutorials may be scheduled for a ways out in order to tie in with other activities.

TrelloCheckMark

The check mark sticker notes that an episode has not only been uploaded to YouTube, but it has been viewed in full to ensure there are no issues, and the description and settings have been updated to make it viewable to its audience.

TrelloInterrobang

The interrobang is one that I had hoped not to have to use, but if you look at Trello right now you’ll see a lot of Zombie Shooter tutorials with it. This sticker means that a video in Completed status needs to be re-worked, either from the ground up, or from one of the In-Progress stages. In the example of the Zombie Shooter, the decision to move to True First Person view sooner as a result of the issues discovered with first person crouching, means that all of those videos need to have some re-work done – most likely in editing. If you see this symbol, expect delays in those episodes being online.

TrelloStar

The star denotes an episode or series that will only be available to patrons on Patreon. It is a perk for pledging support for the development of tutorials, and are available to patrons of $5 or more per month.

TrelloRocket

 

The rocket sticker means that this video or series is only for patrons of $25 or more per month. These are longer, more in-depth tutorials.

TrelloLabels

Finally, these are the labels that are used for noting what the basic content of an episode or series is targeted to. Once you get used to the colors, you’ll be able to tell at a glance if the tutorials may relate to your interests or not! So there you have it – an explanation of the Trello board. If you have more questions, please feel free to ask!

I’m Alex, the Social Media Manager 0

Posted on July 15, 2015 by Alex

Hey everybody,

I’m Alex and I’m the Social Media Manager for Mindless Pursuits. I’m the daughter of Keith, the head of Mindless Pursuits. While I’m not a programmer, nor am I an artist, I am a writer and a user of multiple social media websites. I’ll be posting weekly updates on both the Mindless Pursuits website, Facebook, and Twitter.  I’m a gaming YouTuber known as Crlexi, and help my father in game testing and other activities. I enjoy gaming, anime, writing, music, and figure skater. Unlike my father and my sister I tend to lean away from painting and drawing,  I prefer to play my violin and skate.

Until next time!

Alex

Crlexi YouTube Channel

Lots of Tutorials and More Updates Coming! 0

Posted on July 08, 2015 by Keith

As of this week, I have drafted a social media manager to help me keep this site and my YouTube channel updated! I tend to get so involved in what I am doing, that I never slow down to take the time and update like I always plan to, and my daughter Alex is a social media wiz compared to me, so she is going to handle updates for me so I can continue to focus on what I do best. 🙂

Additionally, I am broadening the scope of my tutorials. I was originally just going to focus on ‘The Embrace’ as a development log, but instead, I want to provide tutorials that are specific to a given game creation topic and/or engine. Rather than post development logs showing the specifics of developing ‘The Embrace,’ I am instead going to begin a series on making a general three-act horror game. Additionally, I am going to provide some reviews of third-party add-ons, videos on how to integrate add-ons, and more as I am able. The first tutorial video (or two) will be going up this weekend and will be the first in the horror game series plus a tutorial on using the ‘Realistic Weapons’ add-on with the awesome ‘Generic Shooter Game’.

Look for more soon, as Alex takes over the reigns!

Returning to the Pursuit of Mindlessness! 0

Posted on March 27, 2014 by Keith
Cute Mini-Cthulhu

Cute Mini-Cthulhu

Woah – it’s been a while! Oops. I never intended to take a half a year break from Mindless Pursuits, but maybe that was what was needed. For those who aren’t aware, in addition to Mindless Pursuits, I also own and create art for Butterfly Bay Design, along with my daughters. Between Butterfly Bay Design work, and other things going on, I more or less lost track of time. Recent creative impulses have gotten me back into the realm of the whimsical though! So – what’s been happening, and what is planned?

First – while I haven’t been cartooning in a while, I plan to get back to it. Not on a regular schedule, but as whimsy strikes me. I’ve given up on the idea of an ongoing webcomic with an internal continuity, as while I liked my character ideas, I just don’t feel I can come up with fresh material regularly for it. The idea of putting that pressure on also tends to stymie my creativity, so it’s probably better overall if I drop it and just make the occasional gag strip.

Second – the anime love still runs strong in our household, and my oldest daughter is attending Anime Detour with me at the beginning of April! It’s going to be a lot of fun, and though I won’t be cosplaying as I’d originally planned, she’ll be going as Yomiko Readman from Read or Die. It’ll be her first time going to an anime convention so hopefully she’ll have a blast!

Finally – I’m going to be getting back to creating and selling items under the Mindless Pursuits brand. I had stopped to focus on Butterfly Bay, but am finding that my goofy, fun creative side needs just as much of an outlet as my more serious art side does. As a result, I’m going to be trying to better balance putting my creative energy into projects that cover the spectrum, beginning with an attempt to make a ‘Doctor Cthulhu’ bust. It will be my first real attempt at sculpture, and I don’t know yet how successful I’ll be. I am certainly looking forward to the attempt! I’ll be blogging about it here and on the Butterfly Bay Design blog. It may or may not be a quick project. We’ll have to see how I do.

So that’s it. Hopefully this is just the start of many things to come. Thank you for hanging in here during my unanticipated hiatus, and I look forward to bringing you new stuff very soon!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly 0

Posted on May 24, 2013 by Keith

No, this is not about spaghetti westerns, even though I admit to their being a guilty pleasure of mine. This is just a quick review of some things that happened this week, because I’ve been wrapped up in my ‘Grand Endeavor’ and haven’t done much else during the day. Consider it this blogs equivalent of a quick Twitter or Facebook Wall post, just slightly longer!

Kauju - Pencil Roughs

Kauju – Pencil Roughs

The Good: I produced another webcomic last weekend, and almost have the one completed for this weekend. Even if it’s not getting seen much, I’m having a lot of fun making it, and someone even bought a print of one through Zazzle. You can see the pencil rough for last week’s comic above. Additionally, I learned that I would be able to stay in my apartment for another year, so that gives me time to finish getting the Grand Endeavor up and running, as well as being here and stable for my daughters as they transition to new schools.

The Bad: I’ve hit a code snag with my project, and am having trouble figuring out how to resolve it, so it’s cost me some time and added some stress. I know it’ll get resolved, but any delay is bad, even with the good news above. Also, while they were very good, my oldest daughter made brownies this week and my willpower just wasn’t up to the task and I’ve gotten in less cycling. I need to kick up the exercise this weekend!

The Ugly: After staying at bay for most of the time since I received my scan results, yesterday the depression hit back hard and with it came the self-defeating questions I strive to keep at bay, such as “was it a mistake to renew my lease?” “Will I actually be able to compete with my Grand Endeavor” “Will I ever lose the weight?” “Why should I get out of bed this morning?”  You get the idea. I believe that completing this weekend’s webcomic will help me push those thoughts back, as will completing the digital painting I’ve been working on, but I wish the depression had stayed away longer.

That’s it! For those who follow the webcomic, a new update will go up sometime tomorrow night, otherwise I’ll have a new VBlog update on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Of Weight and Webcomics 0

Posted on May 13, 2013 by Keith

Let’s start off with the bad news: I gained 1.4 pounds since last Monday. That’s not the reason why I’m not videoblogging today. I’m not videoblogging because I had a mild reaction to a new shaving cream I tried. I’m certain it’ll clear up and I can do the VBlog tomorrow. Anyway, in the aftermath of last Wednesday’s news about being cancer-free, I rather overindulged in sweets in celebration. Cookies at home and multiple times of going out for pie with my family (not celebratory pie – just pie). I’m actually quite amazed that I didn’t go up more, but I guess that’s the benefit of having gone cycling around the neighborhood most days!

Doctor Cthulwho - Pencil Sketch

Doctor Cthulwho – Pencil Sketch

In other news, I launched ‘Mindless Pursuits – The Comic‘ over the weekend. It’s a baby step towards my ultimate goal of publishing a graphic novel and will help me further develop my drawing and digital inking/coloring skills. It’s also a chance to let loose with some of my more absurd thoughts and whimsy! Above is the pencil sketch of the first comic. To see the completed version, go to the comic site!

That’s it for today, as I am back to working on my ‘Grand Endeavor’ full time. Have a great week!

I’ve Been Declared ‘Cancer Free’ Again… Now What? 2

Posted on May 10, 2013 by Keith
This picture has nothing to do with this post, other than I'm as determined to succeed as she was to hit the ball (and she did)!

This picture has nothing to do with this post, other than I’m as determined to succeed as she was to hit the ball (and she did)!

Wednesday I receive my most recent PET scan results, which resulted in my being declared ‘Cancer Free’ (provisionally speaking, but we won’t get into that). As you can guess, there was, and still is, a flood of emotions that swelled up around the news. This post isn’t to discuss that. Instead, beating the big ‘C’ a second time beggars other questions. First and foremost among them: what comes next?

Well, first and foremost, I devote all of my daytime attention to my ‘Grand Endeavor.’ It’s not something I’m talking about in specifics right now as I need to keep it under wraps to avoid competitive scrutiny, and because I don’t want to create any preconceived notions about it. The final rounds of chemo and radiation really disrupted my work though, and starting Monday, I plan to devote a solid 8-10 hours a day to it and get it back on track. I also plan to spend time each evening and weekend on my art. My drawing skills have been developing nicely, my desire to paint with traditional mediums is back, and I’m quite enjoying my digital space and science fiction art projects. Maintaining a healthy balance between the Grand Endeavor, my art, and my time with my daughters is very important to me.

Additionally, I plan on furthering my exercise schedule. I have brought my 12-speed mountain bike back from storage, and have already ridden around town twice. I’m going to slowly introduce some weights into my daily routine. Of course, I’ve already started working on eating healthier, though I’m not going to follow any specific weight loss plan. I’ve even done well in ensuring I am not sitting still all day, despite being at the PC. Every half an hour I ensure I get up and walk around and enjoy a moment on the balcony.

Finally, I have a project that will be very much a sideline project for a while, but will be another step forward in my dreams of enabling creative souls to gain exposure and show their craft. In this case, it’s a project named ‘We All Dream,’ and the earliest incarnation will be a hub for webcomics creators, online graphic novelists, musicians and writers to share their works. Eventually I plan to expand it to be much, MUCH more, but every dream needs a starting point! I’ll provide more information on it here as I develop it further.

Have a great weekend everyone!

On Widely Varied Interests 0

Posted on April 29, 2013 by Keith
Waterfall at the Japanese garden at Como Zoo

Waterfall at the Japanese garden at Como Zoo

I always have multiple projects going on at any one time that reflect my widely varied interests. If there’s anything that can be said with certainly about the way my mind works, it’s that when I spend much time focusing on just one interest, I fall into deeper depression than I do when I’m exploring a number of interests concurrently. Of course, I really suck at time management, so oftentimes, my various projects sit idle or with very little attention. It’s something I’m working on but still have a way to go.

What I am finding works for me is to dedicate one big block of time to the most important interest/activity — in this case a project I consider my ‘Grand Endeavor’ that draws upon my software architecture and development skills. I try to maintain two 3-5 hour blocks of time each day for working on it. I use two large blocks instead of one big block as I find I can stay focused more easily if I work in two mid-sized chunks than I do in one large block. Sometimes smaller blocks work, but I still work to maintain the same amount of time each day.

For my other interests and activities, they get splayed out as I have time. Some interests, like anime and drawing, I can explore with my daughters here, as they share the same interests and we do a lot of it together. Some, like painting, I dive further into when my daughters aren’t around because I need more focus and more uninterrupted space. Unfortunately, these interests tend to receive a lot less time and focus because I’m always hesitant to begin something if I think I’ll have to leave it in the way when the girls come over (like my easel and painting table, or my polymer clays and oven). I tried restructuring my time so that I’d use an evening for each activity when the girls weren’t around, but the creative muse doesn’t flow that way. What it’s caused me to do is to learn to relax a bit about my creative workflow.

For instance, I now leave one small table set up in front of my easy chair. It sits over the ottoman quite nicely so that it doesn’t really take up more tha a couple of inches that the ottoman wouldn’t use already. So I’m not wasting space, and I can leave some extended projects on it, such as a detailed drawing I’m trying to work on this month. I’m also trying to learn to shift some of my interests towards the digital realm. I have this wonderful Wacom tablet that I need to explore using more, and the software tools to support digital art workflows. It’s time to take advantage of that as well as my traditional mediums.

It’s also time to recognize that, with my varied interests, it’s okay to let some drop from time to time, because I know eventually I’ll return to them. I haven’t painted with oils or acrylics in six months. I’m feeling the urge again, and the ideas are flowing, whereas they weren’t when I felt I had to force it. Additionally, as my drawing skills increase, some other fun ideas have come up that I may want to explore, such as working on a periodic web comic. What I’m also starting to reinforce in myself is that these pauses and changes over time are fine, because while I like to show others what I’m working on and create, my desire to create is entirely for myself and as such, I’m okay with it changing, evolving and occasionally being cyclical. I think that as I learn to ‘go with the flow’ I’ll become an even better artist and more inspired in what I create.

The best part? Always being able to look forward to what new idea I’ll surprise myself with tomorrow!



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