Quart games

We’re heading out on a cruise tomorrow. Since our traveling companions include my friend Brandon, the king of board games, we agreed we need to bring a few games along to play on the “fun days at sea” while the ship cruises through the Caribbean. Of course luggage space is at a premium when you’re flying United (sigh) so I needed to find good games that also happen to be small.

I picked several and took them out of their boxes (because boxes are big and unwieldy in luggage), and stuffed them into some quart bags.

That’s 7 Wonders: Duel on the left, Space Base on the top, and Dicee on the bottom. All of them fit quite neatly into quart bags.

It got me thinking: maybe the next game I design should have a goal of fitting into a single quart bag. It’ll be a Quart Game!

Lil’ sis

A few weeks ago, Kari asked if she could come out from Missouri to visit us. In January. I was excited, and started making plans for the things we’d do while she was here.

Her original travel plans happened to coincide with the coldest temperatures we’d seen in years. The weather forecast called for highs that were below zero. That would really put a damper on our plans to be outdoors, and Kari was worried about airline flight cancellations. She bumped her trip a week, which turned out to be a wise choice because her original flight through Denver was cancelled. Plus, the forecast called for much warmer temperatures the following week.

So she showed up, and the thermometer was in the 30s, which was much better for outdoor activities. After a few days with her friend Denise up in Kalispell, she dropped in at our place. We had a grand time chatting and eating and playing games, waiting for an opportunity to do something outside. But the rain came down, and the temperatures plummeted, and we ended up with a quarter-inch layer of ice on everything. Here’s what our driveway looked like:

In this photo it just looks like it’s wet, but that’s all ice. And after plowing two feet of snow off our driveway, we’d kept the pavement clear with shovels. So the nice smooth driveway became a nice smooth (and steep) ice rink. The only way to even walk on it was with crampons.

Well, we’re hardy Montanans and we wanted to show Kari a good time, so we pulled out our sleds.


Sliding down the icy tire tracks was absolutely crazy. By the time we’d get to the bottom of a switchback, we’d be cruising so fast we couldn’t even steer to make the turn. Here are Pepper and Kari roaring down the driveway:

And, unable to make the corner, wiping out in the pile of plowed snow in the switchback:

It was probably the best sledding we’ll ever see. And there was absolutely no way we’d be able to get a car down if we wanted to leave. We’d simply slide right off into a snowbank, or (worse) over the edge and into the forest. We talked about whether our v-bar chains would’ve helped, but I’m honestly not sure. I think they would’ve bit into the ice enough to get us down, but didn’t want to test my theory. So we had a blast sledding at Mach 2 and laughing as we wiped out on the corners.

In this video, I couldn’t steer very well because I was holding my camera, so I ended up spinning through the center snowy strip. Kari easily beat me in our race.

After sledding, we donned snowshoes and gave her a tour of our property, including a hike through the neighboring national forest. The two-foot-deep snow had a layer of ice on top, so we had to basically punch our snowshoes through the ice, sink down to our knees, and then step again. It was hard work, but the forest was beautiful.

We had a good time, even though we couldn’t do all the things we’d hoped. We snapped a quick photo under our continually-growing front door icicles.

Of course we made a pilgrimage to Rosa’s.

It was wonderful to see my sis for a few days, and I hope she can come back again sometime soon. In the summer.


With the designs for Dicee finished, I sent them off to the print company. It was a simple job: just a deck of 54 poker-size playing cards. They arrived today, and I’m pretty pleased with the results.

I decided to use 8-bit retro gaming art for the design after watching Zack and Alex play a video game called Enter the Gungeon. And since Zack is a co-creator of the game, he deserves a subtle shout-out. I like that the game is simple. It involves a deck of cards and a bucketload of dice. It takes a couple minutes to explain and maybe fifteen or twenty minutes to play. It doesn’t involve resource management (as Zack was quick to point out). And honestly it’s a lot of fun.

Of course it’s not finished– this was just the first printing. I already have some ideas for more cards, and I sent a copy to Zack so he can introduce it to his friends and get their input. Together we’ll make it even better.

SO MUCH snow

After several days of light powdery snow– an inch here, a half-inch there– today the skies absolutely unleashed the snow. Over 24 hours we gained around two feet of powder. It simply buried everything. Here’s our picnic table, out in the courtyard:

I put on my boots, snow pants, and a heavy coat and tromped around in the snow for a while snapping pictures. Every tree branch had a thick stack of flakes on it. The trees were beautiful.

After the deluge stopped, the skies cleared and the sun came out for a while. It was still bitterly cold, but there was a wonderful silence to it all. The snow absorbed all the sound, and no one was out so even the highway far below didn’t have the usual rumble of an occasional truck.

We’d been working hard to keep our driveway clear over the past couple of weeks, but all our work was undone beneath two feet of snow. Since we didn’t have plans to go anywhere, we told the plow guy to come at his leisure. In the meantime, we figured we’d test our sleds.

Unfortunately the powder was so deep that we couldn’t really get up much speed. We went over our own sled tracks a few times, packing down the snow a bit, but it was still sort of a slow-motion kiddie ride. That was a bit disappointing, although it was wonderful to spend an hour or two in this frigid snowy wonderland.

The lake at 5

For the first time in a week, temperatures climbed above zero. It was about 5 when we were shoveling the driveway, but compared with the past few days it was noticeably warmer. So we decided to go snowshoeing.

We headed off on a trail to Flathead Lake, tromping through the forest and winding down to the shoreline. Earlier in the day the water had been “steaming” in the frigid air, but I guess the surface temperature had reached more of an equilibrium with the air, so it wasn’t as impressive. Still, it was cool to see all the snow and ice along the water’s edge.

It was good to get out and do something in the snow that didn’t involve shoveling it…

Snow shoveling as an art form?

We have another inch of snow on the ground today, so once again Pepper and I pulled out our shovels and went to work on the driveway. Since it’s 1,800 feet long we don’t bother clearing all of it– we shovel parallel tire tracks all the way down, and then clear the switchbacks (since they’re sharp and steep and you need traction) and the long steep stretch we now call simply The Stretch (since that’s where we’d slide off the driveway and roll the car).

Here’s what it looks like from a switchback, down to tire tracks and then another switchback:

As we were working on The Stretch today, I noticed that the powdery snow and the blacktop make a fun pattern:

The left side is mine– very regular and orderly. On the right you can see Pepper’s more artistic flair.

I suppose if Katie can work on her coffee art, I should work on my snow shoveling art…

AI photos

Once I learned how to “train” the Stable Diffusion software with hand-picked photos of my kids, I was able to create a funny little meme of Kyra. I’ve since learned a bit more about LoRAs, which are “low-rank adaptation” models used to add a specific person, object, or art style to an existing training set. In other words, I can gather twenty or thirty photos of Kyra, run them through some high-powered GPU-based processing, and incorporate them into my AI toolset as I create imagery.

For example, here’s what the AI came up with when I asked for a photo of Kyra in the winter.

Or, what she might look like wearing a cowboy hat in an “Old West style photograph”.

Obviously these aren’t quite Kyra, but they’re close enough to pass a cursory inspection. They’re generated completely from whole cloth: the clothing, background, and everything else is dreamed up by nothing more than clever software. It accurately captures her hair color and style, recognizes that she’s often photographed wearing dangling earrings, matches the style of her glasses, and even includes the dimple on her right cheek. Whoa.

After a hearty online game of Bang with all three kids today, I prompted the AI for an “Old West style wanted poster” of Kyra (to be used in a meme, naturally).

As usual, the AI struggles with text, but again it’s a stunning likeness of my girl. Zack wondered what he would look like, and I obliged:

This one captures the essence of Zack, but I feel like it’s not quite as accurate as Kyra’s results. I suspect I need to refine my training methodology a bit, and continue learning how to write better prompts. So there’s still some work to be done, but the humor value of some of these is pretty high. And it’s a good reminder of the incredible power of AI-generated imagery…

9 inches 4 degrees

It’s chilly today. The mercury says 4 degrees, and when the snow finally stopped coming down, we measured about 9 inches. Since it’s so cold, it’s all powder, which makes shoveling a bit easier.

Tomorrow we don’t expect to get above zero. Yikes.