Neck and neck

It’s been three months, and I’m still going strong in my quest to learn Spanish this year. It’s been fun learning words and phrases, even though most of them feel a little useless at times. I’m not sure how often I’ll need to tell someone “El museo es cerrado” (“The museum is closed”). But hey, you need a foundation of some kind, right?

To be honest, the most fun part of this journey has been doing it with friends and family. At the end of December I “recruited” people to join me in learning a language. Kari and Mom agreed. Pepper, Kyra, and Kaitlyn signed up. Even Alex decided to join us, although he’s absolutely fluent in the language. Brandon and Marie. Katie was a late addition to the group (mid-February) but has already put a ton of lessons under her belt. Each week we’re randomly assigned to “friend quests” where we have to accomplish something with the help of a friend. Pepper seems to get quests like “Complete 10 lessons”, while I end up with “Get a perfect score on 30 lessons”. All in all, though, the “gamification” of learning a language has proven to be a blast.

Marie and I have been jockeying for position for a couple months now. For whatever reason, we seem to do the same amount of work in the app, so our experience points (XP) are always right around one another. As a result, I often get notifications like this:

So of course I have to jump back into the app and do a few lessons to build up my XP. Then she gets a notification and busts out a few lessons. On and on it goes. It’s become a running joke between us. The good news: both of us are learning a lot as we compete for those XP.

I also have my eye on Mom and Kyra, who aren’t far behind. Pretty soon I’m going to be seeing multiple notifications a day about how I’m a slacker and need to do more.

Yo necesito muy XP!

Indio: the final chapter

Two and a half years ago, I started working on my first serious board game. I called it Hexteria, since the board was made of hexagonal tiles, and it had a catchy ring to it. Over the course of those two and a half years, I played it over and over with friends and family– probably fifty or sixty times in all– tweaking it each time. Those tweaks grew smaller and smaller, until last summer when I decided it was finished. (With projects like this, I feel like I could tweak it forever, so at some point I just had to make the call.)

I considered what to do next. I could have my single copy of the game, and pull it out now and again at game nights. Or I could take another step and do some marketing, with the goal of putting it out to the world. The latter path seemed more difficult, since I know virtually nothing about marketing, and wasn’t sure anyone would actually want to pay money for this creation of mine. And to be honest, the fun of designing a game was in designing and playing it; making it commercially available didn’t feel like it would give me any more satisfaction. Sure, it would be kind of cool if a bunch of strangers saw it online and decided to drop some money on it, but it wouldn’t really add to what I’d accomplished.

So it sat on the shelf for a while. Then there was a moment– I can’t quite identify it– when I decided I should take that last step after all. Without attempting to market it, the journey felt like a book that was missing the last chapter. I went to work. The first problem: “Hexteria” had been claimed a few months earlier by a company who’d built a little puzzle app for kids. They had claim to the trademark, and it didn’t make sense to fight for naming rights. I had to come up with something new. As it happens, on our road trip last summer, we passed the city of Indio, California. “Indio” seemed like a cool name, and a quick online search proved that it wasn’t really used for anything but that city. And no one would confuse a city with a board game, so that became the new name.

I worked for a long time on the design elements of the game. I liked the artwork for the board tiles, but I needed more. A game box. The rulebook. Promotional graphics. I’m awful at graphic design, so I dove into the internet and found some artwork I liked. I redesigned the cards, rewrote the rulebook, built a web site, listed the game on several well-known web sites, and finally felt like things were ready to go live. I created a Kickstarter page and built the explanation and graphics. I did a lot of work on the finances of the game, figuring out how to manufacture it as inexpensively as possible while still providing a “premium” experience with the game components. In the end, I was able to force the price down to $75 a copy. It felt a little high, but there was nothing I could do about it unless I wanted to redo the entire game and source the parts in China (an adventure in itself). I listed it at that price, which means I won’t even make money on the enterprise. If the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, I’ll barely break even… in fact, I’ll likely lose a little bit of money. But that’s okay if I can get it into the hands of a hundred people.

This morning I clicked the big “Ready to Launch” button on the Kickstarter page, and the campaign went live. Indio is out there, ready for people to buy it. I texted some friends who like board games, and told them about it. To my surprise, most of them signed up and bought a copy. (If any of you are reading this, I’m really grateful!)

Now it’s a waiting game. The campaign will run for three weeks, and at the end of that time, if there are roughly a hundred people signed up to buy it, I’ll be working on manufacturing and fulfillment. If not, I’ll know I wrote the final chapter in the book and can close it. Either way, I’ll be satisfied.

And then it’ll be time to work on the next game!


When we moved into this house, there was a massive pool table waiting for us. It’s been fun playing eight-ball and nine-ball and even Skunk, but we find that we don’t really use it all that much. When little kids happen to be visiting, they enjoy slamming the pool balls around, and inevitably someone gets a finger crushed or a ball goes careening off the table and bounces across the room. So pool has sort of run its course for us.

When we were down in Arizona a few months ago, I had an opportunity to play some ping-pong with my brother-in-law and nephew. It was a blast, and I’d forgotten how much work it can be to lunge for a long shot, or the satisfaction of putting some great spin on the ball. I miss the table we had at Zing (well, technically it’s still there). I’m definitely rusty, but my old tricks came back pretty quickly.

So when we returned home, I started shopping around for a ping-pong table topper. We don’t have space for a full table, but we can definitely put the table surface atop the pool table. The best part is we can just lift it off and slide it under a bed, and pool’s back on the menu. I found a topper I liked, and put in the order. Now we’re in business.

I’m excited to brush up on my skills, and looking forward to some games against friends.

(Note to Thom: sorry I couldn’t get it in time for your visit. We’ll play next time.)

That time again

Tax season is upon us, and I’m working through all the exciting numbers. I wonder if having three 32″ screens and still needing more space for the various forms and documents is a bad sign…

Apple seeds

My friend Brooke wrote something thought-provoking:

“You can count how many seeds are in an apple, but not how many apples are in a seed. We might never get to see the fruits of our labors or the impact we have on others, but they’re there.”


In light of recent comments by a well-known politician, combined with a growing desire by many politicians to use their office to exact “retribution” for perceived wrongs and slights, I found this quote by Leon Seltzer insightful.

“Revenge is predominantly emotional, while justice is primarily rational. Revenge is, by nature, personal, while justice is impersonal and impartial. Revenge is an act of vindictiveness, justice an act of vindication. Revenge is about cycles, justice about closure. And revenge is about retaliation, whereas justice is about restoring balance.”

It’s my hope we– as a people– can move away from revenge and retribution, and focus instead on justice, mercy, and understanding. Time will tell.


The last day in Hawai’i is always interesting, because all the fun stuff involves dirt, sand, or seawater. Without a place to shower afterward, we didn’t really want to get “too dirty” before boarding a plane for our six-hour flight back to the mainland. Eventually, though, we decided our day would be too boring if we just stayed clean and dry.

The western shore of Maui is highly commercialized, seemingly a continuous stretch of resorts and hotels and shops. We headed north for a stretch; we wanted to explore the Olivine Pools. They weren’t too exciting, although the views were nice.

We also stopped at the Nakalele Blowhole, one of Pepper’s favorite spots on the island. But the water was incredibly calm, and the hole wasn’t blowing. It was disappointing, but the drive along the shoreline had a number of breathtaking stops.

Near Lahaina is a pretty little cove where the sailboat tours gather to discharge snorkeling tourists.

We decided not to worry so much about smelling like seawater on the plane, and went for a swim.

Our flight wasn’t until late in the evening, so we wrapped up our time on the island by strolling along the boardwalk and stopping in shops. The sunset over the marina looked awesome.

Then it was time to head to the airport and leave the enchanted isles behind. Aloha, Hawai’i, until we meet again.

The Road to Hana

If you ask me, the Road to Hana is the crown jewel of Maui. Sure, there are several spots on the island that are amazing, but there’s something about this highway that traces the shoreline of nearly half of Maui. We actually ended up spending three days exploring the highway, because there are so many incredible places to stop.

It began with the bamboo forest. When we first explored this area, the bamboo forest wasn’t very well-known; we’d learned about it from a guidebook and had to look carefully to find the three parking spots alongside the road and the sketchy entrance to an unmarked trail. Six years later, it’s popular and even marked on Google Maps. There were several cars parked there (right beneath the No Parking signs), but we found a spot and headed down into the forest.

This area is fascinating because the bamboo is incredibly thick– basically impassible except on the trail.

The first big waterfall is awesome.

I took some shots of the ladies, but didn’t notice at the time that the mist from the falls was all over my lens. As a result, many of my photos are kind of blurry from water.

Continuing through the forest, we eventually came to the second waterfall. Glorious.

There’s a nice rope swing near the falls, so we took turns jumping into the water. It was cold.

Along the highway is a great stop at Ho’okipa Beach, and we were mesmerized by the crashing waves coming into shore.

The water just smashes into the rocks, exploding upward and coating everything with spray.

As the sun was setting, we watched surfers enjoying the waves.

Then someone shouted “whales!” and to our delight, we saw a pair of whales breaching in the distance. They were probably half a mile off the coast, and kept coming to the surface to spout water and occasionally slap their tails. It was pretty cool.

The next day we picked up where we left off, stopping at a number of points along the highway to hike to waterfalls.

And of course a few beaches. Along this stretch, the beaches are all rocky, not sandy, but it’s black volcanic rock which is interesting.

Down by Ke’anae we discovered an arboretum we didn’t know about, and saw some cool trees.

At Ke’anae Point, we were disappointed that the famous banana bread place was closed, but we weren’t disappointed with the water smashing into the sharp black rocks.

More driving, more waterfalls!

At last we came to Nahiku, the best swimming hole on earth.

The air was getting chilly, and the water was frigid, so Pepper opted to sit on the rocks and enjoy the waterfalls. Kyra and I went swimming (what else do you do at a swimming hole?) and rememberd the last time we were there, when it was considerably warmer. Still, it’s an amazing little spot.

Oh, and of course there’s a huge waterfall just down the trail.

And more waves crashing on more rocks.

That night we stayed in Hana, which is pretty much the only way to really explore the road– otherwise you’re spending a lot of time driving back and forth. It was great to wake up to a cool glass of orange juice with a view of Waikaloa Bay.

That morning, we had an early start for our drive along the south shore of Maui. We went to Wai’anapanapa which has stunningly blue water.

Of course there’s a hike to be had, so we walked along the shoreline through the trees and across the black rock. The weather was glorious.

Then it was onward to the other half of Haleakala National Park, and the hikes in O’heo Gulch. The waterfalls are pretty, but sadly it’s still forbidden to swim in the pools.

We opted not to hike the jungle to see Waimoku Falls, and instead got back on the highway to enjoy the radically different landscape along the southern coast.

The green gradually gives way to a dull gold, and eventually miles of black volcanic rock. We continued around the island, because our destination for the night was Lahaina– far to the northwest. Even in the arid, deserted southern regions, the Hana Highway is beautiful.


After our time in Kauai, it was time to hop over to Maui. It’s interesting how different the two islands are. Of course there are similarities, but there’s a different “vibe”. Maui feels a little more civilized; Kauai seems more wild. Maui has some places that I find completely irresistable. I was excited to be back for the third time.

We drove up Haleakala, the massive volcanic mountain in the middle of the island. While most of Maui is green and wet, the top of the mountain is like another planet. It’s cold and desolate. Oh, and it’s windy. The temperature was about 40 degrees, and the wind was blowing at a steady 60mph. What’s funny is you can’t even tell in this photo of Kyra:

Pepper didn’t even want to get out of the car, because it was so cold and windy. No one was hiking the trails near the caldera. I braved the elements to snap some pictures of the crater, but even I was dissuaded from hiking along the rim trail as I’d originally planned.

Because there simply wasn’t much to do at the top, given the weather, we headed back down and watched as clouds literally rolled over the landscape below. Here’s a picture of a cloud bank creeping across the lowlands below the road:

The last time we’d been on the mountain– back in 2017— it was cold and raining (in fact snowing at the top). It was a little disappointing that once again, the weather kept us from enjoying the mountain. But it was still cool to be so high that we could see the rest of Maui spread out around us, and even see Hawai’i itself on the distant ocean horizon.

When we arrived back at sea level, it was warm and sunny, so we took advantage of a beach with some wild surf. Kyra and I enjoyed the waves while Pepper enjoyed the sand.

Afterward we went to a food truck (there are a ton of food trucks in Maui!) for some sushi dinner.

The day didn’t quite go to plan, but that doesn’t mean it was a bad day. Does Maui have bad days?…