Meeting Ollie

Over the weekend, Pepper and I drove down to Utah to meet our grandson for the first time. He’s a cute little guy, and it was a lot of fun to remember how small babies are. We have a lot of photos like this:

And this:

Of course, being three weeks old, he did a lot of this:

Alex and Kaitlyn were good sports as we all vied for a chance to hold Ollie. I guess in some ways, it’s nice as a new parent to have a bunch of people willing to take the baby for a while.

Ollie’s pretty talented, too… here we are, singing a cover of Billy Joel’s Piano Man.

We also had a chance to see a bunch of family members who came out to attend our niece’s baby shower (Alex and I dodged that bullet and had lunch instead). It felt like a mini family reunion!

On Sunday morning we wandered around the BYU campus and took some great pictures:

We even played around with some of the experiments in the science building, including the Vortex Cannon (sounds cool, right?). I’m on the second floor, looking down at Kyra, and I can aim this big metal drum at her and then thump the black rubber membrane to throw a big poof of air right into her face. Isn’t science amazing?

After a great weekend and a long drive, it was nice to crest Polson Hill and see the Flathead Valley again:

We’re looking forward to seeing little Ollie become… well, bigger Ollie. These guys grow so fast…

Back on the water

With temperatures soaring into the 60’s and the bright sun shining down, it was time to get back out on the water. Although I enjoy the winter here, it’s hard to have a huge, beautiful lake right in front of us but not be able to spend time on it. So each spring, we wait eagerly for a day when it’s finally warm enough to brave the frigid water.

Yesterday we loaded up the kayaks and headed out to Loon Lake, which is a small lake (or large pond, depending on your definitions). It was great to have a leisurely paddle for a while. We saw geese, ducks, turtles, and probably a loon or two. A few logs in the water had lines of turtles on them, all sunning themselves and enjoying life until we came up to look at them, at which point they’d slip quietly into the water and then, a moment later, poke their little heads up to see if we were still there. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of them, because my camera was misbehaving.

Today we de-winterized (summer-ized?) the jet skis and headed down to Yellow Bay, our favorite put-in for Flathead Lake. I fired up my jet ski and zoomed out into the bay, but sadly, Pepper couldn’t follow because her jet ski had a rough go of it. Something wasn’t working quite right in the engine, and she could barely get up to 30mph… and couldn’t make any sudden stops or sharp turns, which are pretty much the best parts of riding jet skis. So she sadly putt-putted back to shore.

Although the air was a nice 60ish, the water temperature is still probably in the 40’s. It’s cold enough that when you step into it, you literally suck in your breath. And after a minute of walking around the shallows (to get the jet skis on and off the trailer), you can’t feel your toes any more. We always gear up in wetsuits, full water shoes, and neoprene gloves… here’s a view of my foot and the shallows.

But it’s still dang cold. It’ll be awesome to spend summer months back on the lakes again.

Unable to manage the sun

I’m setting up some “smart home” software so I can do fancy things with switches and plugs and cameras, and I was excited to see the Sun as one of the devices in my list. My excitement turned to disappointment, however, when I received the following error message:

I can’t control the Sun from this software. Dangit.

Maybe a hint of OCD

I’m eating some Skittles for a snack, and I asked Pepper how she would eat them. Just shove a handful of them in your mouth? Or sort them by color? If sorted, are they eaten in a particular order?

We both agreed that we’d sort by color, and yellow/lemon are the worst. So you eat those first, to get them out of the way. Then you go through the rest, preferably from worst to favorite. Here’s my Skittles tableau:

It’s worth noting that I have a combination of “traditional” Skittles and “wild berry” mix here, which explains the blue and pink ones. And the pink/strawberry and red/cherry ones are equally awesome, so they can be properly eaten together.

A quarter-century

Today marks a quarter-century since the fateful day I married my best friend. It seems like those years have just zipped past, and occasionally when we’re sitting around watching a sunset or sitting in the hot tub or finishing watching a movie or whatever, one of us will say something like “can you believe it’s been this long?”. And it’s not in a bad way; it’s pretty cool how the time has passed and yet we still love being together.

I’ve posted this picture a few times, but it’s my go-to shot from our wedding because it sums up so much about us.

I’m glad I’ve stuck with her all these years, and I’m looking forward to at least twenty-five more…

Brainstorming

Little did I know when I created the virtual version of Hexteria that my friend Brit would play one game with me, and then come up with a steady stream of ideas and suggestions. For the past few days, he and I have been trading long emails with thoughts on the game mechanics, tweaks, and new possibilities. It’s been a lot of fun– very much a refreshing change from when I was feeling a bit like I was in a rut. This afternoon we had a long video chat to flesh out some of the ideas.

It’s a good thing I have three monitors, because I had the rulebooks open, a list of cards, some notes, and a bunch of other resources. I was frantically typing and updating things as we talked. Good times. I just have to be careful that Hexteria doesn’t become overwhelming as I add more icing on the cake!

Revitalized

Although I’ve been working on Hexteria on and off the past few months, I’d hit kind of a rut where I was feeling “stuck”. The game was at a point where I felt like it was solid: the rules were well-defined, the player interactions were interesting, and overall it didn’t totally suck. In fact, many people who’d played it said they enjoyed it. (Whether they were only saying that to protect my feelings, I’m not sure, but it still felt good to hear people tell me it wasn’t awful.)

However, I’d kind of “burned out” my local gaming friends, since all of them have played it multiple times with only incremental changes each time. Unless you really love a game, you don’t generally want to keep playing it over and over, every time you get together. Much of what I’ve read about game design stresses the importance of playtesting… over and over. So I felt stuck, because I couldn’t keep playtesting it locally, but needed to engage other friends and perhaps one day, complete strangers.

Enter Tabletop Simulator, a “virtual” table where you can create game pieces and invite others to join you at the table. A simple physics engine makes the pieces feel realistic as you move them around by picking them up and setting them down. Although it’s definitely not the same as sitting at a table in person, it’s surprisingly good. I’d been resistant to using Tabletop Simulator– despite a recommendation from Ben– because it just felt clunky, and my first experience playing around with it six months ago was pretty negative. But I rolled up my sleeves and went to work. One Saturday afternoon later, I had all the Hexteria pieces created and loaded into the simulator. It looks pretty sharp!

Ben was willing to be my first remote playtester, so we opened a Google Meet chat and sat down to play. It went well, and I was thrilled that I now have a new avenue of introducing the game to friends, and getting more feedback without burning out too many people. Thanks Ben! Now I’m lining up games with friends in Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Missouri, and Nebraska. Hopefully they’ll like it, they’ll have some good suggestions, and Hexteria will continue to edge closer to being a marketable game.

So I’m revitalized in my hobby, and excited to move forward. It reminds me of this quote:

In a few months, I hope to put on my marketing hat and create the Kickstarter campaign that’ll introduce it to the world and maybe get a hundred or so people to buy the game. Fingers crossed!

Fairly cute

Kyra sent a few pictures of Oliver Quentin, and commented that “for a new baby he’s actually pretty cute”.

I always think of stuff like this…

But yeah, Kyra’s right… he is actually pretty cute.